Month: September 2019

How Americans spend money: A look at the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey

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When I discuss American spending habits, I try to cite specific numbers. Sometimes people write to ask where I get my info. Simple. Whenever I cite figures about American earning, saving, and spending, I get them from the U.S. government. In particular, I use the Consumer Expenditure Survey (or CEX) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here’s how the BLS website describes the Consumer Expenditure Survey:

The Consumer Expenditure Survey program consists of two surveys, the Quarterly Interview Survey and the Diary Survey, that provide information on the buying habits of American consumers, including data on their expenditures, income, and consumer unit (families and single consumers) characteristics. The survey data are collected for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau. The CEX is important because it is the only Federal survey to provide information on the complete range of consumers’ expenditures and incomes, as well as the characteristics of those consumers.

The Consumer Expenditure Survey is the only reliable source I’ve found about actual spending habits. Most similar projects have much smaller sample sizes and/or provide theoretical numbers. The CEX is a great way to develop a descriptive budget (one that deals with real behavior) instead of a prescriptive budget (one that pushes an agenda).

Naturally, the CEX has its drawbacks. As always, averages (and medians) only provide a limited view of a dataset. Plus, what might be true for an entire population (a country, in this case), probably isn’t true for a small subsection (your state or city, for instance). Still, for looking at the Big Picture, nothing I’ve found beats the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

Because I’m a money nerd, I get very excited when the new Consumer Expenditure Survey numbers are released each year. And guess what! The 2018 data was released two weeks ago. I spent some time yesterday sitting in the hot tub and geeking out over U.S. spending stats on my iPad. Then I updated my personal CEX spreadsheet. (What? You don’t have one of your own?)

Let’s take a closer look at the Consumer Expenditure Survey — and what we can learn from it.

Decades of Data

If you visit the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey page, you’ll likely be overwhelmed by the amount of information available. When I first found the site, I had to sort through the various reports until I found the one most useful for my work: the “age of reference person” table, which splits spending info based on the age of the person surveyed. (This is the base report I use when I collect stats.)

I also like the “Library” section at the Consumer Expenditure Survey website. It contains decades-worth of research papers and reports related to personal spending. Some of my favorites include:

To a money nerd like me, this stuff is golden!

Like most federal government agencies, the BLS has an excellent website. For starters, you can access all past CEX data on one of two pages: tables from 1984 to 2011 (plus 1961 and 1973), tables from 2012 to 2018.

Turns out the government performed this survey once during the early 1960s, once during the early 1970s, then made it an annual thing starting in 1984. That means there are now nearly fifty years of stats for money geeks to sort through. (Plus, the site provides access to a “forgotten” expenditure survey from the early 1940s!)

I’ve created the following table, which points to individual reports for each year. Yes, this is mainly for my own personal nerdery, but I hope that at least a few of you money bosses will enjoy it also.

The BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey summaries by year
1941 1961 1973 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020

If you’d prefer, you can make your way to the Get Rich Slowly file vault. I’ve created a directory that contains a PDF summary for every year of the Consumer Expenditure Survey. In the future, I’ll add various other CEX-related downloadables here.

Crunching the Numbers

A few years ago, I went through past editions of the Consumer Expenditure Survey to grab data for a spreadsheet that tracks how American spending has evolved over time. Naturally, I just updated it for this year.

Rather than bury myself (and you) in a flood of information, I decided to look at roughly ten-year intervals. I figure by skipping a decade we get a more meaningful look at shifting habits. That means I used expenditure tables from 1961, 1973, 1988, 1998, 2008, and 2018 — the most recent year for which data is available. For fun, I also included data from the “forgotten” 1941 survey (which is much less comprehensive than later reports).

When I get time this winter, I’m going to update the spreadsheet to contain data for every year of the CEX.

Note: For our purposes, I cut a lot of cruft when transferring these numbers to spreadsheet format. These are complex statistical reports, and they’re filled with numbers we don’t care about (do we need to know the standard deviation for everything?) and jargon that just confuses, such as “consumer unit” (which we’ll call “household”) and “reference person” (which we’ll call “head of household”).

Here’s a complete glossary of CEX terminology. Also, I’m not going to break down every little subcategory. The “Food at home” subcategory has 25 sub-sub-categories beneath it, including “bakery products”, “fish and seafood”, and “processed fruits”. I’m just going to stick to the primary categories and subcategories.

The following tables provide a run-down of the data I collected. After I show you the numbers, I’ll discuss a few things that stood out to me about how American spending has changed with time.

Table 1: Cost of living adjustment and sample size
CEX - Assumptions

Tables 2 and 3: Attributes of the average American household
Note that estimated market value of home is inflation-adjusted
CEX - Averages

CEX - Adjusted Percent

Table 4: Income, taxes, and spending (actual)
CEX - Raw Income

Table 5: Income, taxes, and spending (inflation-adjusted)
CEX - Adjusted Income

Table 6: Spending by category (actual)
CEX - Raw Spending

Table 7: Spending by category (inflation-adjusted)
CEX - Adjusted Spending

Take some time to browse this info. Let it soak in. Look for patterns. Look for changes. What surprises you about how Americans spend their money? Where do we spend less than you thought we would? Where do we spend more?

Before I point out some of the things I find interesting, you should know a couple of things:

  1. First, the tables from the 1961 Consumer Expenditure Survey contain wildly contradictory information. Different tables supply different numbers. Sometimes when you add subcategories, the total is greater than the parent category. Where there’s contradictory info, I used table B-17 as my guide (since it most closely resembles later CEX reports). Another problem? Sometimes the scanned pages are difficult to decipher. Is that a three or a five? A six or an eight? I think the numbers here are accurate, but there could be errors.
  2. The CEX tax calculation changed in 2013. Before then, tax numbers were getting corrupted by “non-response errors”. So, the BLS changed how they calculated taxes to get greater reliability. But, as a result, taxes for 2013 aren’t like any other year in the survey’s history. And taxes in years from 2014 on can’t really be compared to 2012 or before. (For more info, check out the Consumer Expenditure Survey FAQ.

With those notes out of the way, let’s dive into the numbers! Let’s look at how Americans spend their money — both now and in the past.

A note on inflation: Using 2018 as a base, I calculated a cost-of-living adjustment for each year in order to factor out inflation. (I used the U.S. government CPI inflation calculator to get these numbers.) Looking at Table 1, you can see that prices in 1988 were roughly 48% of what they were in 2018. After computing this number, I converted it to a multiplier to get inflation-adjusted expenses. If 1988 prices were 48% of 2018 prices, that means we have to multiply numbers from the former by 2.08 to get equivalents for today.

How Americans Spend Their Money

We could spend hours sifting through this information to find patterns and trends. Instead, let’s just hit the highlights.

First up, note how the size of the average household has dropped from 3.2 people in 1961 to 2.5 people in 2018. Almost the entirety of that drop comes from the fact that we’re having fewer children. In 1961, the average household contained 1.2 children; today it contains 0.6 children.

Meanwhile, automobile ownership has boomed. Since 1973, we’ve gone from owning 1.3 cars per household to owning 1.9, an increase of 46% during the past 45 years. Other notable demographic changes:

  • Today, there are more full-time earners per household than there were in 1961 (1.3 vs. 0.8).
  • We, as a society, are much more educated than we were forty years ago. In 1973, an amazing 21.2% of Americans didn’t have a high school diploma. Today, that number is down to 3%. Meanwhile, far more people are attending college (28% in 1973 vs. 67% in 1998).
  • Home values have far outpaced inflation. The average home was worth $76,156 in 1973 (inflation-adjusted); today, it’s worth $198,612. But if you look at the tables, you can see the housing bubble in there. Look at the numbers for 2008!

Moving on to Tables 4 and 5 (Income, taxes, and spending), you can see that even when adjusting for inflation, household income doubled between 1941 and 1973. In the past 45 years, household income has only increased another 24%. It’s fun to speculate about causal relationships for these numbers. I suspect that household income skyrocketed after World War II due to women entering the workforce. (But admit I could be wrong.)

As much as income has increased, spending has grown more quickly. In 1973, Americans spent 85.0% of their after-tax income. In 2018, they spent 91.1% of their after-tax income. (Admittedly, spending as a percentage of income seems to bounce around.)

To make it easier to visualize some of these changes, I created another table to calculate some important ratios and percentages.

Table 8: Derived numbers
CEX - Derived

In 1941, the average American family spent 31% of its budget on food. In 2018, the average family spent 12.9% of its budget on food. That’s a huge decline! From 1973 to 2018, restaurant spending (food away from home) increased 48% while spending on food at home declined 36%. Overall, food spending declined 30% in in the past 45 years.

For me, it’s more interesting to compare numbers today with numbers thirty years ago. (Thus the 30-year change column in the spreadsheet.)

I’m surprised that when you adjust for inflation, a lot of American spending has stayed relatively flat — or even dropped. We’re spending about as much of our income on housing today as we did thirty years ago. There’s a clear downward trend on our transportation expenses. Our food spending remains flat — even restaurant spending! We spend much less on clothing and (unfortunately) reading. (Although that reading number is probably down because we do most of our reading online.)

Meanwhile, health insurance costs are out of control. Between 1973 and 1988, the average American family decreased its spending on health insurance by 9.3%. But in the past thirty years, rates have shot up 245%. That is insane. No other spending category comes even remotely close. And it’s why I make an exception to my no politics policy to advocate for scrapping our U.S. healthcare system. Any other option would be better and cheaper than what we have right now.

Looking at these tables, what numbers stand out to you? How does your spending compare to the average American family? What worries you about your spending — and the spending of the country as a whole? (And are there other similar surveys and reports I should take into account when writing about consumer spending?)

The post How Americans spend money: A look at the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

The best credit cards for building credit in 2019

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Sometimes we get dealt a bad hand and end up with a bad credit rating. Or maybe we’re trying to build up our credit rating for the first time.

Either way, we can find ourselves in a trap.

Credit card issuers want good credit scores in order to approve us for a new credit card. But we need a credit card to improve our credit.

I’ve got good news.

You have options. And these aren’t scammy deals that will take advantage of you. Even with bad credit, it’s still possible to get a credit card and rebuild your credit.

The Top 4 Cards for Building Credit

Jump ahead to

The Best Credit Cards for Average Credit

If you have a decent credit history but can’t quite get the premium credit cards yet, start with a rewards card for folks with average credit.

Compared to the premium rewards cards, these cards offer fewer rewards at higher APRs. You’ll want to get in the habit of paying off your cards every month. So the APR shouldn’t matter.

So the only real difference between these cards and premium cards is that the rewards aren’t quite as good.

But it’s still something. And these cards help you build up your credit. You’ll build credit while earning some rewards along the way. That’s a great deal.

If you have a high enough credit score to get one of these cards, start here.

The Best Credit Cards for Bad Credit

Let’s say something happened and you now have bad credit. Every time you apply for a new credit card, you get denied.

Now what?

Even with bad credit, you still have options.

I recommend considering one of the secured credit cards. These cards are still credit cards so you will build up a credit history with them. If you always pay on time (which you should be doing), you’ll slowly improve your credit score and unlock better credit cards.

The difference if that you have to put a deposit down when you open the card. Depending on your credit score, the deposit usually ranges from $50 to $200. The bank holds onto this deposit and will keep it if you skip too many payments.

The deposit allows the bank to offer credit cards to a larger range of folks than a standard credit card.

Yes, it is inconvenient to save up enough for the deposit but it’s a better option than not having a credit card at all. Credit cards are the easiest ways to build your credit score which will get you better credit cards, more credit, and better interest rates on mortgages and loans. It’s definitely worth the effort.

The Best Credit Cards for Students

I was a student when I got my first credit card.

A bunch of bills hit me all at once, including some hefty maintenance on my pickup that I hadn’t planned for. I went from having a couple of hundred dollars in my checking account to being about $500 short of what I needed to pay all my bills.

So I went around town and applied for a credit card at every bank. They all turned me down.

Then I went to the credit union on campus that offered student credit cards. Their approvals department initially denied my application until the banker advocated for me. He got me approved at half their usual credit line for students.

After paying my bills with that credit card, I paid the card off on time and started building my credit score. A decade later, I have good enough credit to get just about any credit card I want.

When you’re a student, many banks will turn you away outright. That’s what happened to me. Going to a bank and choosing a student card can get you out of this trap. Student credit cards are designed for folks without any credit history and low to no income. As long as you’re a student, the requirements get much more flexible.

That’s how I got started.

Once you have your first card, pay if off every month to build your credit. Then in a few years, apply for a card for average credit scores to get your first rewards card. The point is not to be picky as a student, get any card that doesn’t have annual fees and use it to build your credit. Worry about the rewards and perks once you’ve built up your credit a bit.

How to Choose The Right Card for Building Credit

What’s the best way to right the best card for building your credit rating? Follow these steps.

1. Avoid Annual Fees

Lots of the premium credit cards have annual fees. They give rewards and perks which easily exceed the value of the fee.

But when you’re building credit, you’re not going to get the best rewards or perks. Your primary goal is to build up your credit rating so you can get access to the better credit cards later. Fees are only going to slow you down at this stage.

When I was building my credit up, I avoided fees entirely. That kept more money in my pocket and kept things really simple until I had a good enough credit score to get the premium credit cards. I recommend you do the same.

We’ve included reviews of some cards that have annual fees. Sometimes they offer rewards and it’s worth it. In other cases, they might be the last option available. Avoid fees if you can. And if you can’t, switch to a no-annual fee card as soon as you can once you’ve built up your credit score.

2. If You’re a Student, Get a Student Credit Card

As a student, you’re stuck in a catch-22.

You need a credit score in order to get a credit card. But you need a credit card in order to build a credit history and get a credit card. Breaking this cycle can get tricky.

These days, there are great credit card options for students that help kick-start everything.

Most of them don’t have annual fees, some have a few rewards and parks, and they’re specifically designed for students so you’re odds of being approved are much higher.

If you’re a student, get a student credit card. That will put you on the path to building credit and you’ll be able to get a much better card later assuming you always pay your monthly bill on time.

3. Start with One Card for Bad Credit

Maybe you’re building from scratch. Maybe, you’ve hit a rough patch. Whatever it is, we’ve all gone through tough times.

If you know that your credit score isn’t great or you’re building your credit from scratch for the first time, get a card for bad credit.

Why start at the bottom?

Every time you apply for a card, your credit score will take a hit.

It’s true, part of your score is dependent on how many credit requests that you’ve had recently. If you apply to a bunch of cards all at once, your score will go down a bit.

I personally hate this. Right when you really need a credit card, the process of applying for credit cards makes your credit worse.

The credit score hits are minor but they do add up.

When we’re going through a rough patch, a single card can mean the difference between paying our bills or not. I’ve been there, my first card got me through a cash crunch.

The last thing we want to do when we’re in this situation is try to apply to cards out of our reach, ding our credit score, and make it even harder for ourselves to get one credit card.

I recommend getting a credit card that you’re confident that you’ll be approved for. That way, you’ll have some breathing room to make your bills and you can start building your credit. Even if you get declined on the rest of your credit card applications, you’ll have one card to work with.

Unless you’re positive that you have at least average credit, start with the cards for lower credit scores.

And I’d absolutely go straight to these cards if I’ve recently been declined 1-2 times already and really needed a credit card. As long as you get a card without an annual fee, there’s no downside to keeping a credit card open. It actually helps your credit score a bit by increasing your total available credit limit.

4. Get One Card at The Average Tier When You Can

Once you have one credit card that you’ve been using awhile and have built up your credit, try applying for one of the credit cards for folks with average credit. These aren’t the premium cards but you will get started with some rewards.

As a general rule, consider applying for one of these cards once you’re credit score is 600 or above. There’s no guarantee you’ll be approved but this is the range where it becomes a possibility. And the odds are in your favor once you get close to a credit score of 700 and above. Remember to only apply once in case your score isn’t high enough. If you’re declined, continue building your credit for another year or two and try again.

I’d avoid multiple cards at this tier so only apply for one at a time. There’s no reason to have more than one. Later on, you can consider having multiple premium cards to maximize rewards and perks. But at this stage, you want one decent card that will give you some rewards while you keep building credit. Continue to avoid fees and keep things really simple at this stage.

Credit Cards for Building Credit Reviews

Here are our reviews on all the best credit cards for building credit:

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Platinum

The Capital One Platinum card offers a no-frills basic credit card. There’s no rewards, no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees. It’s a basic credit card without any fees dragging you down.

For building credit, it’s a fantastic option. Especially without annual or foreign transaction fees. When a card doesn’t have rewards, it’s really important to avoid fees since every dollar comes straight out of your pocket.

Yes, there aren’t any rewards but it’s a real bonafide credit card without any downsides.

Even better, you’ll get a higher credit line after making your first 5 month payments on time. Usually, you have to call credit card companies and ask them to increase your credit and justify it with a higher income. Having a built-in credit increase will help you increase your credit score even faster.

When I was starting out, I would have been thrilled to get this card.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards

If you can get this card, get it.

The rewards are as good as they get outside of the top tier cards that require great credit scores.

You’ll get 1.5% cash back on every purchase. For context, the best cash back cards give 2%. So this card is close to the top.

There aren’t any bonus or rotating categories to worry about either. You’ll get a straight 1.5% cash back on every purchase. I love simple cash back cards like this because I don’t have to manage anything. I spend, I get cash back rewards, that’s it.

Your credit limit will also go up after you make your first 5 month payments on time. Part of your credit score is determined by your “credit utilization” which is a fancy way of saying what percentage of your total credit limit you use at any given moment. The lower the percentage, the better. So having a high total credit limit means you’ll use a small percentage and improve your credit score faster.

It does have a $39 annual fee. As long as you spend $2600 on your card each year, you’ll come out ahead and earn more in rewards than you spend on the annual fee. That comes to about $220/month in credit card spending.

One other perk: Capital One has an upgraded version of this card called the Capital One Quicksilver. It’s the same card without an annual fee and has a lower APR. The catch is that you’ll need a higher credit rating in order to get it. Once you’ve used the QuickSilverOne for awhile and built up your credit score, you should have an easier time upgrading to the better version since the card is at the same bank you already have a history with. Once your credit is high enough, this simple upgrade will give you one of the best cash back cards out there.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Capital One Spark Classic (Business)

Capital One Spark Classic for Business

Business credit ratings work a bit differently than personal credit ratings. Each rating agency uses their own method, businesses have their own credit ratings, and your personal credit rating can be used as a substitute for your businesses’ credit rating.

Even if you have a great credit rating personally, you might have to start from scratch with your business. And a poor personal credit rating can negatively impact the rating of your business.

If you find yourself needing to improve the credit rating of your business, try to get the Capital One Spark Classic.

It’s a simple and solid rewards card for businesses with average credit ratings.

You’ll earn a straight 1% cash back on every purchase. Yes, other cash back cards have higher percentages but you’ll have a much easier time getting approved for this card. No hoops to jump through either. No rotating or bonus rewards categories to remember.

There isn’t an annual fee to worry about and no foreign transaction fees.

It’s a super simple card with a decent cash back amount for businesses that need to build their credit some more before going after the premium cards.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online

Capital One Secured Mastercard

Capital One Secured Card

The Capital One Secured Mastercard is my favorite secured card.

This is still a credit card so it has the same impact on building your credit rating as any normal credit card.

The difference is that you’ll put down a deposit of $49-200. The deposit stays with the bank and can be taken if you go delinquent. As long as you stay on top of your credit card payments, you’ll get the deposit back if you ever close the account.

Credit lines start at $200 and go up after your first 5 monthly payments that are made on time. If you need more credit each month, you can pay some of it off with an extra payment so you can keep using your card.

And there’s no annual fee or foreign transactions fees.

There’s no gotchas or tricks. You put a deposit down, you get a credit card, then you start rebuilding your credit. Nice and simple.

If you’re rebuilding your credit and don’t have access to other cards, I highly recommend this one. It’s a fantastic card to start with.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Discover it Secured

To get rewards with a secured card, get the Discover it Secured. Rewards are really rare with secured cards.

You’ll get 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants up to $1000 in purchases each quarter. You’ll also get 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Those are decent rewards on their own and they’re fantastic for a secured card.

Since it’s a secured card, you’ll need to put down a deposit of at least $200. A $200 deposit gets you a $200 credit line and a $500 deposit gets you a $500 credit line.

Once you’ve used the card responsibility over a long period, you’ll get the option to convert the card into a non-secured card. These reviews happen automatically every month starting at 8 months after getting the card.

There’s no annual fee either.

And all the cash back that you earn the first year will be matched by Discover. So the cash back for your first year is doubled. It’s a nice bonus.

Like all Discover cards, it has the downside of not being accepted everywhere. If it’s your primary card, make sure you have another card with you even if it’s a debit card. It will be turned away by businesses on a regular basis.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Indigo Mastercard

Indigo Platinum Mastercard

The Indigo Mastercard is a normal credit card and there’s no deposit required like the secured credit cards.

If you have poor credit, it can be risky to keep applying to different credit cards, hoping one of them approves you. Every application dings your credit rating a bit. That’s the last thing anyone wants when their score is already low.

The Indigo Mastercard does a quick, 60 second pre-qualification for you that doesn’t impact your credit score. This is super helpful when you’re trying to rebuild your credit. You’ll find out if you can get access to this credit card without having to risk lowering your credit score.

This “pre-qualification” isn’t a guarantee though, it’s an initial prediction on whether you’ll be approved. You’ll only get the real answer once you officially apply and they do a real credit check.

Watch out for the variable annual fee. Depending on your credit score, you’ll get an annual fee between $0 and $99. Since this card doesn’t have any rewards, that annual fee comes straight out of your pocket and there’s no way to earn it back.

You’ll find out what the annual fee is when you complete their pre-qualification process.

If you get an annual fee, you’ll be better off going with a secured card which allows you to get your deposit back. You only have to pay the deposit on a secured card once. With the Indigo Mastercard, you’ll have to pay the annual fee every year.

But if a secured card isn’t an option for you and this is the only credit card that will approve you, it is an option. And paying it off consistently will allow you to build credit. Sooner or later, you’ll be able to switch to a better card. Just keep in mind that you’ll eat the annual fees along the way.

Also watch out for the 1% foreign transaction fee. That will add up while traveling.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Credit One Bank Platinum Visa

CreditOne Platinum Visa

Not many cards offer cash back rewards card to folks with lower credit scores. Credit One Bank Platinum Visa does.

You’ll get 1% cash back on these categories:

  • Gas
  • Groceries
  • Services such as mobile phone, internet, cable, and satellite TV

That’s pretty amazing.

But be careful with this card. There is a catch.

There’s a variable annual fee of $0 to $99 depending on your credit rating. Normally, this would be fine with a rewards card. But the cash back on this card only applies to gas, groceries, mobile phone, internet, cable, and satellite TV. If you get stuck with the $99 annual fee, you’ll need to spend $9,900 every year on these categories. That’s a lot for gas, groceries, and a few monthly bills.

If you don’t spend enough to earn the cash back to cover the annual fee, you’ll be paying for the privilege to use this card. When you’re building credit, every dollar counts and I’d consider other cards before going this route.

Hopefully, you’ll get an $0 annual fee on this card and it won’t be an issue.

One other perk: Credit One Bank regularly evaluates your account in order to give you a credit line increase as soon as you’re ready. This makes it a lot easier to increase your total credit limit, lower your credit utilization, and increase your credit rating faster.

Lastly, you can pick the due date for your card. This is super helpful when balancing bills. I recommend picking a day right after your second paycheck of the month (assuming you get paid twice per month). Your first paycheck will go to rent while your second paycheck can cover your monthly credit card bill.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Discover it Student Cash Back

Dsicover IT Student

The Discover it Cash Back is the best of the “rotating cash back cards.” These cards cycle through different purchase categories each quarter. During that quarter, the purchase category earns 5% cash back. One quarter will be gas stations, another will be, etc.

A 5% cash back is super high when the standard is usually 1-2%. In exchange for the higher reward percentage, you’ll have to remember the difference promotional categories as they change. For myself, I avoid these types of cards. It’s just too much hassle to manage for me. But if you want to maximize your rewards, this is the way to do it.

You will also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases which is decent for a student card.

I’m not the biggest fan of first-year promos. They come and go quickly, I don’t like choosing cards based on them. But this card does have a promotion that’s worth mentioning. For the first year, Discover will match the total cash back that you’ve earned with no limit. That’s pretty cool. Again, don’t choose this card just for the first year promotion but it is a nice perk.

The card also has a good grade award. You’ll get $20 in statement credit each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to 5 years. I would have gladly used that money to buy myself an extra burrito and some beer when I was in college.

You won’t have an annual fee with this card.

There aren’t fees for missing your first payment and the APR won’t change for late payments either. But if you’re taking advantage of these perks, you need to work on better credit card habits. Credit cards really slow down your ability to build wealth and a better credit rating if you don’t pay them off every month. So I wouldn’t consider these to be perks.

Remember that this is a Discover card so businesses will refuse to accept it somewhat regularly. Make sure you have another credit or debit card on you just in case.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Discover it Student Chrome

Discover It Student Chrome

If you want to avoid rotating cash back categories and still get some bonus cash back, this is a great option.

You’ll earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. If you max this out by spending $4000 on these categories per year, you’ll get $80 cash back.

When I was in college, restaurants and gas were definitely some of my biggest spending categories. This card would have been a great fit for me.

Like some of the other Discover Student cards, it does have a great first-year promotion. Discover will match all the cash back that you earn in the first year, that doubles your cash back rewards for one year. That’s a great perk. Just remember, promotions come and go quickly so don’t sign up for this card just for the promotion.

You’ll also get a statement credit of $20 ear year your GPA is 3.0 or higher. This lasts for up to 5 years after you get the card. That’s another $100 of potential rewards.

There’s no annual fee to worry about.

While you won’t get a late fee for your first late payment and the APR won’t increase from late payments, I strongly encourage you not to take advantage of these perks. Paying late is a horrible habit to get into and you’ll lose a tremendous amount of money to interest charges if you carry a balance. Your credit score will also get trashed from late payments, making car loans and mortgages much more difficult later on. It’s better to skip credit cards entirely and just use a debit card if you carry a balance or pay your credit cards late.

There is one major downside to this card: it’s a Discover. On a regular basis, businesses won’t accept the card. Make sure to have another Visa or Mastercard on hand even if it’s just a debit card.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Journey Student Rewards Capital One

If I could go back and choose a card when I started college, I would pick this card. It’s simple, has a solid cash back rate, and no fees to worry about.

It’s everything you could want from your first rewards card.

You’ll earn 1% cash back on every purchase. That gets bumped to 1.25% when you pay on time. You should be taking advantage of this bonus every single month, get in the habit of always paying off your credit card on time. It’s the only way to get any value from your rewards. Otherwise the interest charges will devour any cash back that you earn.

No annual fees to worry about. And no foreign transaction fees either. You can spend without having to worry about either.

It also has the option to pick your monthly payment date, this is helpful when you want to align your credit card payment with when you get paid.

And once you make your first 5 payments on time, you’ll automatically get a higher credit line. This helps you build your credit score faster which comes in handy when you apply for a car loan or a mortgage down the line.

I highly recommend this card for students, get it if you can.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.

Deserve Edu MasterCard for Students

Deserve EDU Card

When you sign up for the Deserve Edu MasterCard, you’ll get one year of Amazon Prime for Students for free (a $59 value). To be honest, this perk isn’t that amazing. It’s a nice little bonus but don’t pick the card for this perk alone. One year goes by pretty fast.

It’s still a great card though.

Getting a 1% cash back on all purchases as a student is an amazing deal.

The real benefits from this card come from what’s NOT required:

  • No SSN required = perfect for international students studying in the US
  • No credit history required = perfect for students that have never had a credit card before
  • No deposit required = perfect for students without cash on hand
  • No cosigner required = perfect for students that don’t want to involve their families

And no annual or foreign transaction fees either.

For students that need to get their first card and need some flexibility on the application, this card is a fantastic option.

*Terms apply – Learn how to apply online.


Advertiser Disclosure: I Will Teach You To Be Rich has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. I Will Teach You To Be Rich and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

The best credit cards for building credit in 2019 is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

Bluevine Loans Review for 2019

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Bluevine Loans is a popular online lender offering three types of financing to small businesses: lines of credit, term loans and invoice factoring. The qualifying criteria for each product varies, but you can generally find more relaxed credit and business standards at Bluevine compared to other providers.

is best-known for fast funding times and brief repayment terms, which could help your business stay afloat with a quick cash infusion. Broadly speaking, that makes Bluevine a better option for short-term needs than long-term business goals. Business owners with good credit and other strong credentials may qualify for better terms with other lenders.

Submitting a Bluevine application won’t impact your credit score. If you accept your loan offer, you can take advantage of fixed rates and no origination fees.

Bluevine Loans at a Glance

  • Lines of credit go up to $250,000 with rates as low as 4.8%. Bluevine draws funds directly through your online dashboard and deposits them into your bank account within hours.
  • Term loans also go up to $250,000 with payments automatically withdrawn from your account every week. Repayment terms last either six or 12 months.
  • Invoice factoring lines go as high as $5 million. Rates start at 0.25% each week and your credit limit can increase as your customer base grows.

The Specs

Loan Amount $5,000 – $5 million
Best For Small businesses who need quick financing with flexible credit requirements.
Not For Small businesses with excellent credit seeking long-term financing options.
Types of Financing Available Line of Credit
Term Loan
Invoice Factoring
Loan Terms 6 or 12 months
How Payments Work Weekly payments deducted automatically from your business bank account
Approval Time 5 minutes
Funding Time/strong> 12 – 24 hours
Funds Delivered $2 billion+
In Business Since 2013
Better Business Bureau Rating A+

The Claim

promises minimal qualifications to get approved for small business financing, even for for business owners with bad credit. They also advertise fast approval in five minutes or less and funding within hours. With three different financing structures available, Bluevine lets small business owners take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities or weather unexpected struggles.

Is Bluevine Legit?

Yes, and it’s a good option for certain businesses with certain needs. A hard credit check isn’t pulled when you apply — in fact, Bluevine only performs credit checks for sole proprietors and general partnerships. Even then, this step only occurs after you’ve received an offer and accepted your financing terms.

For lines of credit, business owners need a minimum personal credit score of 600 in order to qualify. Invoice factoring requires a credit score of 530 or higher. Additionally, your company must be at least six months old with $100,000 or more in annual revenue. Bluevine also considers your business cash flow and the strength of your customers when evaluating your financing application.

Once your application is approved, you can opt for a bank wire transfer to receive your funds in just a few hours. This expedited service costs $15. For a free alternative, choose the ACH transfer. While you won’t have to shell out any extra cash, the ACH transfer is a bit slower, anywhere between one and three business days.

Even though Bluevine’s financing options come with the potential for fast funding, some of the variables are either out of your hands or require an extra cost. It’s smart to go in with realistic expectations so you don’t end up disappointed with the actual speed of business.

Our Deep Dive

  • Bluevine’s financing options are not unsecured. Instead, your loan, line of credit or invoice factoring is secured by a general lien on your business. You must also provide a personal guarantee, although personal assets are not used as collateral.
  • There are no penalties or termination fees for paying off your financing early.
  • To apply, you must provide your business address, tax ID, business owner’s personal information and either a read-only connection to your company’s bank account or your three most recent bank statements.
  • Bluevine products are not available to certain restricted industries, including those related to gambling, political campaigns, firearms, nonprofits and auto dealerships.

Lines of Credit

  • No fees are added to your account for prepayment, account closure or monthly maintenance.
  • You can repay your drawn funds over a period of either six months or 12 months. Payments are made on a weekly basis.
  • Your available credit replenishes as you repay your balance.

Term Loans

  • Payments are deducted from your bank account weekly, so it’s important to make sure you have enough money to cover the fixed payment amount.
  • When your term loan is paid down to 50%, you may be eligible to apply for additional funding.
  • The advertised 4.8% rate is a simple rate calculated over a 26-week period, not an annual percentage rate. Make sure you’re comparing similar terms for different loan products.

Invoice Factoring

  • Invoice factoring allows you to borrow against invoices owed by your customers while you wait for them to pay.
  • It’s a good alternative if your business doesn’t qualify for a line of credit.
  • Invoice factoring with Bluevine does not involve a long-term contract. You can cancel your agreement at anytime without any penalty.
  • Factoring rates are advertised as low as 0.25% but also have the current LIBOR rate added to the base.
  • You can opt to either sync invoices from your business software or manually input them into your online Bluevine dashboard.
  • Receive between 85% and 90% of your invoice amount up front. Once your customer pays, you’ll receive the remaining money with Bluevine’s fees deducted first.

Cost Rundown

The cost of a service depends on which type of financing you choose. None of its products come with an origination fee, so you don’t have to worry about upfront costs or money deducted from your financed amount. Here’s a rundown of each Bluevine product so you can compare your options.

Line of Credit

With no origination fee, you won’t end up paying anything until you actually start drawing funds from your line of credit. Your first draw must be a minimum of $5,000 and can be as high as your available credit. For additional draws, your minimum withdrawal is just $500.

Interest is charged on the amount withdrawn at an APR between 15% and 78%. Your fixed payments are either weekly or monthly over a period of six or 12 months. The line of credit’s balance automatically replenishes as you repay the borrowed funds.

Term Loan

A Bluevine term loan features an APR ranging between 15% and 88%. Payments are fixed and paid on a weekly basis so you know exactly what to expect. Like the line of credit, Bluevine’s term loan is repaid either over six months or 12 months. Your business account is auto-debited until your payment period finishes. You can also repay the loan early without facing any prepayment penalties.

Invoice Factoring

You’ll receive advances on your customer invoices between 85% and 90% of the full amount. Bluevine then charges weekly interest at an APR between 15% and 68%. Once your customer pays the invoice, the total interest is deducted from the remaining balance and you receive whatever is left.

The sooner your customers pay, the less money you’ll owe on the advance. The downside is that if a customer doesn’t pay the invoice at all, you’re still responsible for the amount you borrowed and the interest. If this happens, you can either self-pay directly or enroll in an installment payment plan.

Cheaper (or Free!) Alternatives

Bluevine is a direct online lender. To compare it with your other options, consider applying with a loan broker representing several lenders or to multiple lenders to make sure you pick the most agreeable financing for your business. Be aware of how credit checks are handled with each one to avoid excessive hard pulls on your credit report.

Another financing alternative is to use a business credit card if you’re in a cash crunch. Bluevine is designed for small business owners with limited credit scores or quick financing needs. Keeping a credit card on hand can take care of temporary cash flow issues without the hassle of applying for online financing or taking on above-average interest rates.

The Competition

Online business financing is becoming increasingly prevalent in this digital world. Here are some top competitors in the business loan industry.

  • : Provides lines of credit and term loans to small businesses. Borrow loan funds up to $500,000 with an APR between 9.99% and 99%. Get up to $100,000 with a line of credit and 13.99% to 63% APR.
  • : Offers businesses a line of credit up to $250,000. Term lengths are more flexible with terms lasting six, 12 or 18 months. The revenue minimum to qualify is just $50,000 annually. APRs range between 24% and 99%.
  • Fundbox: Business owners can choose between a line of credit and invoice financing with the ability to borrow anywhere between $1,000 and $100,000. You also don’t have to provide a personal guarantee or any physical assets as collateral.
  • StreetShares: Choose between secured and unsecured loans or a line of credit. You can receive same-day approval up to $250,000 with APRs from 8% to 39.9%. The credit minimum is a low 550 and the required revenue is just $25,000 annually.

What Others are Saying

  • Bluevine averages 4.5 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot.
  • On the positive side, one customer wrote, “Bluevine had approved my company for a LOC or loan. I chose the LOC. We finalized the paperwork and logged in to Bluevine’s super user-friendly site to complete the transfer and track my activity. I had funds showing the next day in my bank and usable the following day.”
  • Another verified user noted, “I found them to be very high pressure and high interest presented in a deceptive fashion. They are ok for brief, short-term funding but their draw fees and interest rates are excessive.”
  • Bluevine has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

The Bottom Line

offers a range of products to help small businesses get quick financing. With the potential to get approved even with below-average credit, you may also end up paying excessive interest rates. Compare your options and only take on additional debt when it makes strong financial sense for your business. Also be sure to fully realize your responsibility for the loan, including the details of the required lien and personal guarantee.

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our rankings and recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser’s page for terms & conditions.

The post Bluevine Loans Review for 2019 appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

How adopting two girls changed my money mindset

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I’ll never forget the moment I got the text message from my wife: “Do you want to adopt two girls?”

I was at work. We’d been exploring adoption for the previous year but had hit some roadblocks. Adoption wasn’t really on my radar anymore, and we had never discussed adopting more than one child.

And if I’m being honest? Girls weren’t really on my radar either. We have two biological sons, and I thought one more boy would be nice. Adopting two girls wasn’t part of the plan.

But my response? “Sure.”

At that moment, regardless of my preconceived thoughts and dreams, I knew I was supposed to say yes. I felt it inside of me. I’m glad I did.

How adopting two girls changed my money mindset

Our Adoption Story

Our adoption story is unique. All adoption stories are unique. No adoption is normal.

As I mentioned, we have two biological boys. They’re pretty cool — most of the time. At the start of our adoption journey, they were ages five and two. The girls were ages eight and five.

We live in Ohio. The girls were from Florida. The eldest was born in Thailand (where their biological mom used to live) and the youngest was born in Florida, where their dad resided.

Their family suffered a couple of major health tragedies so that their parents were no longer able to care for them. They feared the girls would be taken away and put in the foster care system — possibly separated. As much as they didn’t want to lose them, they wanted to find a good family that would adopt them both so they could stay together.

I have so much respect for their parents and what they did for their girls, knowing it was probably the hardest decision they ever had to make. It turned out to be a smart decision. Both parents have now passed away.

Anyhow, the girls had come to visit cousins in Ohio for the summer. My wife, who is a teacher, heard about the girls’ story through a colleague. It was then that she sent me the text message.

Adoption Costs

Because we didn’t adopt through an agency or through overseas, our adoption costs paled in comparison to what many families pay. (This is another way in which our story is unique.) >We had costs associated with our home study as well as going through an adoption attorney in Florida.

What’s a “home study”? Great question! A home study is one of the most important parts of the adoption process. They’re required for almost every adoption.

A home study is just what it sounds like: a study of your life to assess if your family will provide a stable environment for adopted children. Home studies vary depending on the agency involved. Our home study included a criminal background check, interviews, references, training classes, a look at our finances, and a home inspection.

Shortly after gaining legal custody of the girls, we moved to a bigger house. We needed more room for our large family. For our home study, we had to update some of our house to meet safety standards. This included tasks like updating electrical outlets, installing new carbon monoxide detectors, and posting emergency contact info.

The average cost to use an adoption agency is $43,000. (Some agencies charge a sliding scale based on income.) An independent adoption through an adoption attorney can save families a few thousand dollars.

As you might expect, the cost of adoption can vary based on the child’s home country. Adopting from China costs an average of $36,000. Adopting from South Korea costs an average of $48,000. It all depends on airfare, how much time you spend in the country, and the fees the country charges for adoption.

Some of these costs can be defrayed by government tax credits, but it’s still a lot of money.

I wish the cost of adoption wasn’t such a roadblock or deterrent for adopting children, but often that’s the case. I’ve heard some crazy stories. We were fortunate to receive help from many people, which helped defray our adoption costs.

In the United States, about 428,000 children per year are placed into foster care. About 135,000 children per year are adopted.

Two Plus Two Doesn’t Always Equal Four

Caring for a child is expensive, even if you’re frugal. Because we already had two children, we understood that the real cost of adoption would come after the girls became part of our family. This wasn’t simply a matter of adding two more mouths to feed, two more children to clothe.

When you go from two to four kids, you don’t just double costs. For us, it was way more than that.

It started with our cars. We couldn’t fit our newly-expanded family into our vehicles anymore! We had to purchase a minivan.

Plus, we’d already planned a huge family vacation with extended family for that summer. After just two weeks in our home, the girls joined us for that trip. The rented house at the beach had space, but we hadn’t considered the hotels to and from our destination. Most hotels aren’t set up for a family of six.

In fact, few things in this world are set up for a family of six!

That was just the beginning. Our family finances grew in many areas, including:

  • Clothing
  • Groceries
  • Education
  • Housing (we needed a bigger house!)
  • Medical bills and insurance

The increased costs that came from adoption weren’t just financial. All four of our kids needed individual attention. Each had very different physical, emotional, and educational needs. It was a lot to learn on the fly.

And our oldest son, who had been first in the birth order, now found himself third. That was a tough transition.

A Change in Our Financial Mindset

When I was younger, my dad took me on a camping trip. He and I visited several pro baseball ballparks. We also spent a day at Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where we toured the chocolate factory and rode roller coasters.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that trip had a profound effect on me. It helped shape the way I view life and my role in the world. Now that I’m a father myself, I want to provide my wife and children with unique experiences that might help shape the way they view life and their roles in this world.

While this is a great goal, adding two more kids to our family makes the task much harder. As our family dynamic changed, so did our spending habits. Everything financial became tougher.

  • We had more food and clothes to buy.
  • We had more school, sports, and activity fees to pay.
  • We had more needs, which meant we had less money for our wants.

Until this point, I’d only given token attention to considerations like retirement, 401(k) accounts, college funds, and investing for the future. We weren’t broke and we weren’t living paycheck to paycheck. But we weren’t really prepared for the future either.

As I began to take a more active role in our family’s financial future, my passion for learning kicked in. I read books and blogs, listened to podcasts, and managed our money more closely. I was constantly looking for ways to save, cut expenses, and get rid of debt.

I still wanted to find ways to provide great experiences for my family, though, and that led me to discover the world of credit card rewards. I was able to earn enough points and miles for a nearly-free week-long trip to Universal Studios in Florida!

Kevin's family on vacation

New Opportunities

After a while, I realized that cutting expenses can save you money, but that only takes you so far. If you want to save more money, you need to earn more money.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve wanted to start my own side business for as long as I can remember. Because I love speaking, I thought I could do that as a second career. I took an online course on how to start a speaking business and was super psyched to get started. The problem is that I have a full-time day job and most speaking gigs conflict with that. I wasn’t ready to make that sacrifice. There had to be another way.

I’ve had a passion for writing since I was a kid. Because I was learning so much about personal finance and budget travel, I decided that maybe I could write about that in my spare time. With four kids, spare time is a precious commodity! But I managed to steal a few minutes here and there. That’s when Family Money Adventure was born.

Great! I had my own website…but I wasn’t making any money. A side gig isn’t very good if it doesn’t give you extra income, right?

I was already a fan of Holly and Greg Johnson at Club Thrifty. When Holly launched her course on earning money through freelance writing, I thought this could be my way to create some extra income for my family.

I signed up immediately and got to work. I continued to write for Family Money Adventure, secured some guest posts (including this one!), and took some low-paying gigs to build a portfolio. From there, I’ve been able to slowly build my writing business, develop steady recurring writing gigs, and land higher paying writing jobs.

Note: Holly was a regular staff writer here at Get Rich Slowly for several yeas. In fact, she has 77 GRS articles to her credit, making her one of the site’s all-time top contributors.

The Sky’s the Limit

Today, I still work full-time but I’m building my side business. I wake early to write before my workday begins, and I often stay up late to finish assignments. I’m still able to spend quality time with my wife and kids. I even coach my son’s basketball team!

Yes, expanding our family meant making sacrifices. But I’m happy to make these sacrifices if it means moving toward a more secure future. I want my wife and kids — all four of them — to know that they can find success in whatever they’re passionate about if they put in the work. For me, it’s worth the late nights and sacrifice.

I didn’t know it at the time, but adopting two daughters was a catalyst that would start a new adventure. Without them, I don’t think I’d have felt the urgency to make financial changes. I was too complacent. I never would have learned to save. We never would have become more intentional with our finances. I never would have pursued writing — for Family Money Adventure or for freelance clients.

More importantly, if we hadn’t adopted our two girls, we would have missed out on meeting two of the most special people on the planet. Our family wouldn’t have been complete.

The post How adopting two girls changed my money mindset appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

Does the world of personal finance need more politics?

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Note: I’ve added a short addendum to this piece in an attempt to clarify some things. This may or may not have helped.

Earlier this week at The Washington Post, Helaine Olen wrote that the world of personal finance needs more politics.

Olen specifically calls out FinCon, the financial media conference I attended last week. I love FinCon. She doesn’t. She’s disappointed that so many members of our community emphasize personal action and responsibility instead of directing our efforts toward changing the systemic and societal issues that make it difficult for some people to succeed.

She writes:

Spending a few days at FinCon 2019 shows the limits of the nonpolitical approach to improving your financial life…Over and over again, the systemic problems facing Americans are simply accepted as a given and unfixable, and tossed back onto the individual for him or her to solve.

Rarely mentioned are the political system’s many contributions to common economic troubles.

Olen is concerned that there are larger societal and systemic issues that hold some people back and prevent them from achieving financial success. I agree.

I disagree, however, that FinCon is the place to address these issues. And I disagree that we, the financial media, should turn our attention from the personal to the political.

Personal finance is personal. It’s right there on the label.

Does the world of personal finance need more politics?

Politics at FinCon

I don’t know how many times Olen has attended FinCon. I’ve attended every year so far (and have already registered for next year’s tenth installment). From my experience, she’s wrong that attendees accept systemic problems as “given and unfixable”. We don’t.

This year, I had a memorable conversation about privilege with Julien from rich & REGULAR. I spoke with several people in the FIRE community about how we can make the principles of financial independence more accessible to everyone, especially those with lower incomes. (We talk about this all of the time. So much, in fact, that I’m tired of the topic.) In past years, I’ve had extensive conversations about the challenges women face in mastering their money.

Here’s another example: In 2015, the Debt Free Guys attended their first FinCon. Kim and I (and several others) enjoyed hanging out with John and David at the hotel bar. They confided that they were afraid about coming out to their readers. “Do it,” our small group told them. They did. Four years later, they’re killing it, and LGBT financial blogs now have a powerful impact.

Financial bloggers talk about systemic and societal issues often. But we talk about these things amongst ourselves, one on one or in small groups, not in hundred-person breakout sessions or, worse, as a 2500-person body in the Hilton grand ballroom.

Why not? Because these conversations are nuanced. They’re sensitive. Nobody agrees on any of this stuff. Even two people who have very similar political viewpoints will disagree on solutions. (Case in point: The current Democratic debates.) Imagine what it’d be like trying to do this with hundreds of people from across the political spectrum. Tackling subjects like the “student loan crisis” is best done in small groups, not as a FinCon collective.

FinCon founder Philip Taylor says that past sessions at the event have explored Universal Basic Income, women and money, minorities and money, and more.

This year, there were sixteen attendee-organized sessions with political themes, including an “equity and justice” meetup. Plus, the National Endowment for Financial Education sponsored a community service project.

FinCon in not a political event and never has been. Too, nothing about personal finance is inherently political. Sure, some folks put a political spin on the material they present, but that’s an individual choice. And the political spin Dave Ramsey employs is different than, say, the spin Helaine Olen would use.

That’s the biggest reason I’m glad FinCon doesn’t include politically-charged topics in its official schedule: We are a diverse group with diverse beliefs. Olen writes as if there are universally agreed-upon solutions to the systemic and societal barriers confronting Americans. There aren’t.

It’s this lack of agreement that causes so much friction in our current national discourse. What does she think would be accomplished by holding these sorts of political discussions at FinCon?

The Political and the Personal

In Olen’s article about FinCon, she argues that personal finance has failed. She believes the solution is to move from the personal to the political:

We are facing staggering levels of income and wealth inequality, while facing staggering costs for housing, health care, education and so on. If better personal finance could fix this one by one for more than 300 million Americans, we would know by now.

Here’s the thing, though. We do know by now that better personal finance can and does fix things one by one for Americans. I’m not sure why Olen believes that it can’t.

I’ve been writing about money for more than thirteen years now, and I’ve had hundreds (thousands?) of readers contact me to tell me how they’ve turned their lives around after deciding to take charge of their finances.

  • Government doesn’t help GRS readers get out of debt.
  • Government doesn’t help GRS readers negotiate pay raises.
  • Government doesn’t help GRS readers increase their saving rate.

No, GRS readers do these things themselves.

Each year, I meet one-on-one with dozens of folks from the GRS community. Without fail, these people are taking action to master their money — and their lives. They’re not waiting for somebody else to solve their problems. They’re seeking solutions themselves. And while not every reader finds success, most do.

I believe strongly that the focus of my work is (and should remain) personal, not political. I don’t believe turning my attention to systemic and societal problems would solve anything for anyone. But by helping individual readers find ways to improve their lives, I can help many people.

If I were to write an article bemoaning the state of student loan debt in the United States, it wouldn’t solve anything. I’d just be adding to the noise. If we at FinCon were to hold a panel discussion on student loan debt, we wouldn’t solve anything. We’d just be adding to the noise. Frankly, it worries me that Olen believes we should be adding to the noise instead of offering readers tools and solutions that they can apply to their individual circumstances.

It’s not my job to change the system. It’s my job to give readers the tools they need to thrive within the world we’ve created. If Olen wants to fight the system instead of teaching readers to better their lives, that’s fine. She can do that. I genuinely wish her well. But I’m not sure why she thinks it’s necessary for everyone else to have the same goals that she does.

Here’s the thing, though. As the 1960s feminist movement made clear, the personal is political. That is, how we live our lives should be consistent with our political (and spiritual) beliefs. Even though I don’t discuss politics overtly here at Get Rich Slowly, I hope that my choices and actions for the site subtly reflect what I believe, in a way that leads by example rather than shouts from the rooftops. I hope that I’m “walking the walk”, not just “talking the talk”. That’s my goal, anyhow.

Here’s an analogy borrowed from my buddy Jim Wang.

A doctor’s job is to maintain (and restore) the health of her patients. It is not a doctor’s job to battle insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry. She may have concerns about these aspects of the medical-industrial complex, and she may have a deep desire to see things change, but changing the system isn’t why she spent 15+ years in higher education. She did that so she can improve the lives of individual patients.

Likewise, my job is to improve the financial lives of individual readers. It is not my job to solve the student loan crisis, to fight high taxes, or to rail against our modern corpocracy. I may occasionally bitch and moan about how shitty our healthcare system is, and I may secretly wish our corporcracy would die a fiery death, but I generally try to steer clear of politics because my job is to help you build wealth. Period. The end.

I'm like a doctor for your personal finances

Whose Side Are You On?

Another problem that Olen doesn’t mention is that there’s no unanimous agreement over how to address the problems with our socioeconomic system. There’s not even agreement that the things she views as problems are problems. (Conversely, I’m sure other folks would consider some things pressing issues that she’d dismiss as unimportant.)

Olen complains, for instance, that Americans face “staggering” costs for housing, health care, and education. But she doesn’t acknowledge that there’s no consensus on how to address these problems.

My conservative readers would suggest one possible course of action. My liberal readers would argue in favor of another. People like me who are generally centrist would prefer a third alternative. Which way is right? How can we possibly know? How would arguing about this at Get Rich Slowly (or any other money blog) possibly improve society?

It wouldn’t and it won’t.

But Get Rich Slowly can make the world a better place by showing people how to pay off debt, start saving, and achieve financial freedom despite the societal and systemic structures that surround us. I can make things better by helping people become more resourceful, helping them develop the skills they need to build wealth. And then these people can teach others.

Over the years, I’ve received many messages from readers thanking me for keeping politics off this site. While I’m a human being and have my own opinions and beliefs, I do my best to keep the blog itself as neutral as possible. All readers are welcome: gay, straight, black, white, religious, atheist, libertarian, socialist, whatever. I don’t care.

This seems like a good time for a Taylor Swift GIF to express my stance:

Get Rich Slowly is a safe space for anyone who wants to learn about money. Or Taylor Swift.

Because GRS is a safe space, we’re able to have civil conversations about topics — taxes, divorce, Taylor Swift — that would provoke heated nonsensical debate on other sites. Earlier today, I was reading an article about taxes from my local city’s newspaper. The comments were ridiculous. Like five-year-olds with larger vocabularies and less civility.

Here’s an actual example of what happens when an innocuous story — “local grocery store chain is closing” — is hijacked by political discussion. It’s ludicrous.

Is this really a political topic?

Besides, the GRS readership isn’t exclusively USian. We have many Canadian readers among us. (And my business partner is Canadian.) Lots of people in the U.K. read this site. I’ve had beer with readers in Turkey, Hungary, Ecuador, Germany, Switzerland, and France. (Well, in France we drank wine and in Switzerland we drank whisky. You get the idea.) If I were to shift my focus to politics, what good would that be for these folks?

About three years ago, Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa launched the Choose FI podcast. These two men have polar opposite political perspectives. But because they keep the politics out of their show and out of their friendship, they’ve achieved huge success. They’re focused on helping people, not on changing the system.

Breaking Bread

On the final morning of FinCon this year, I met Joshua Sheats for breakfast. Sheats is the whipsmart host of the Radical Personal Finance podcast. His mind works at a million miles per minute, and our conversations always make me think. Whenever we meet, I take notes. Even at breakfast.

Joshua and I share drastically different political and religious views. Yet every year at FinCon, we break bread together. We engage in a deep, respectful discussion about the world we live in. It’s one of my favorite parts of the conference.

We’re only able to do this, though, because we’re meeting each other as two individuals. While we disagree on certain fundamental issues, we share a passion for helping others get better with money, and we both believe strongly that ultimately it’s up to each individual to improve her own life.

“Are you and Kim married now?” Joshua asked this year, pointing to the ring on my finger.

“No,” I said. “But we’re committed to each other.”

“How does that work from a practical financial perspective?” he asked. “My world view is based on the Bible. I understand how Biblical marriage works. I don’t understand how a secular partnership like yours would work.” I explained how we manage our shared lives.

Joshua wasn’t challenging me. I didn’t feel threatened. We weren’t shouting at each other. We hold radically different viewpoints, but were able to engage in a civil discussion because we entered the conversation as two individuals with mutual respect.

In Olen’s world — in a world where FinCon and money blogs focus more on political issues — this kind of thing would be less likely to occur. Instead of engaging as complex indviduals, attendees would engage as adherents of one or another political movement. When this happens, people stop thinking of others as real human beings. We end up with the sort of political discourse that is already destroying our society. It’s as if Olen wants Finconners to give up their mutual admiration and respect in order to become a mirror of existing American culture. That seems insane to me.

We at FinCon come from myriad different backgrounds. The conference is racially diverse. It seems fairly gender balanced. (I don’t have precise stats.) There’s a large contingent of Christian bloggers. There are many atheists. There are Republicans. There are Democrats. In a way, it’s almost as if the conference itself is a microcosm of American society…but without the bickering. It’s wonderful.

I don’t think FinCon could be this tiny five-day utopia if politics were a prominent part of the discussion. If politics were a central focus, we’d risk shattering this fragile, precious thing, this sublime soup of mutual love and respect.

Miranda praises Fincon

“I’m taking my son to the Museum of the Bible this morning,” Joshua said as we finished our breakfast on Sunday. “Do you want to join us?”

“I can’t,” I said. “I have another meeting.”

But I was deeply grateful that Joshua would ask me to accompany him, especially since he knows my political and religious beliefs. He wasn’t trying to proselytize. He was simply trying to engage and share. I’m honored he would want me to be with him.

These sorts of interactions are only possible, though, because FinCon doesn’t do politics. The moment that politics become a primary focus, I believe much of the FinCon magic will disappear.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, what bugs me most about Olen’s argument is this: By trying to convince readers that societal and systemic issues are too large and too powerful, she strips individuals of agency. She denies them the ability and power to change their own lives. She encourages a passive, reactive mindset instead of an active, proactive point of view.

This seems like a miserable worldview. It robs people of dignity and hope. It’s a tacit argument that “you can’t control your life; your life is controlled by larger forces”. I don’t believe that. I don’t want others to believe that.

The fundamental premise of this site is: Regardless the hand you’ve been dealt, it’s up to you to take action to improve your life. You can’t wait for somebody else to make things better for you.

[Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control]

At the same time, I agree with Olen. There are problems with our current socio-economic system. And while we may not agree how to remedy these problems, talking about them is important.

But I don’t think FinCon is an appropriate venue. Nor is Get Rich Slowly.

I love the idea of a new event dedicated to this discussion, a conference where financial journalists discuss systemic issues and politics and how they relate to personal finance. If this were deliberately inclusive, intentionally designed to include all points of view and to foster respectful discussion, I think it could be awesome. I’d attend.

But it seems misguided to come to an existing event that works, one that’s valuable precisely because people can escape politics for a few days, and then complain that it ought to be more political.

Why politicize the non-political?

Whoa! While researching for this article, I found a short 2006 piece I published about the politics of personal finance. In it, I wrote: “Personal finance is non-political. It helps everyone when another person avoids debt, learns to save, and becomes financially independent.” I’m pleased to see my position has remained consistent all of these years!


In the 24 hours since I published this piece, I’ve had some great conversations about the subject via email, on Facebook, on Twitter, by text, and here in the comments section at Get Rich Slowly. Many folks agree with me. Some don’t. That’s awesome!

My concern is that a few don’t understand my overall point, which makes me feel like I did a poor job of explaining myself — probably because I took 3000 words to do it. Let me try a shorter version.

Personal finance is personal. Yes, I agree that the personal is often political, but I don’t think it always is. And when there’s overlap between politics and money, I believe the two can (and often should) be addressed separately. To me, it’s like the following Venn diagram, which I have lovingly crafted for you:

The overlap of politics and personal finance

If you want to write about the intersection of politics and personal finance, do it. If you want to have a conference about the intersection of politics and personal finance, do it. But don’t be cranky if and when others don’t.

What I object to is the idea that personal finance needs more politics (in general), and that FinCon needs more politics (specifically). I believe there’s already plenty of politics in personal finance.

Some of my favorite money blogs tackle both politics and personal finance at the same time. (Bitches Get Riches is a great example.) And there are already alternatives to FinCon for folks who want political discussion at the same time. (The amazing Stefanie O’Connell and Emma Pattee, for instance, put on the Statement Event every year.)

My mission is to help individuals get better with money regardless their political or religious affiliations. Others, including Helaine Olen, have a broader vision. They want to change our society and are less concerned with the success of discrete people.

There’s nothing wrong with either aim. There’s room for both sorts of crusaders in the world. But I feel it’s wrong to complain that somebody else — or some other conference — doesn’t share your aim or objectives, that they ought do to things the way you would do them.

The post Does the world of personal finance need more politics? appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

How I’m fighting chronic depression and anxiety

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Hello, friends! I have four money articles in progress, plus I’m editing several guest posts for future publication. But today I want to give a brief update on my mental health. My depression and anxiety have been tough this year but it feels like I’ve turned a corner, and I want to share what’s helped.

Each week when I go to therapy, I complete a survey regarding my recent mood and attitude. It’s about what you’d expect. There’s a list of maybe a dozen statements, and for each I fill in a bubble indicating how strongly I agree (or disagree) based on my experience during the previous seven days.

From memory, sample statements include:

  • I feel nervous and/or my heart races.
  • I feel anxious in social situations.
  • I have friends and family I can ask for support.
  • I have trouble finding motivation to get things done.
  • I’m able to complete everything I want to do.
  • And so on.

At my first therapy session in April, my score on this assessment was awful. I felt anxious all of the time. I was having trouble with increased heart rates. (Thanks, Apple Watch, for constantly flagging that.) And by far my biggest problem was getting done everything I wanted to get done. I wasn’t doing anything. I was too deep in my anxiety and depression.

Last week, I visited my therapist for the first time in a month. As always, I completed the mental health inventory before our appointment started.

“Whoa!” my counselor said when she saw the results. She pulled up my past scores on her computer. “This is the best you’ve been since we started working together. You marked that everything’s fine except for your ability to get work done. That’s great. What happened?”

“What happened is that I got out of my routine,” I said. “I’ve been on vacation. Plus, I’ve been doing a lot of the things you and I have talked about. They’ve helped. Right now, the reason I can’t get done everything I want to do has nothing to do with depression and anxiety. It’s just that I have so much on my plate that I can’t figure out how to prioritize it!”

During our time together, my therapist and I have explored a variety of steps I can take to improve my mental health. When I actually implement these things, life is great. (I have a tendency to talk about making changes without actually doing so. This was especially true early on.)

Here are three changes that have helped me cope with my depression and anxiety.

Spending More Time with People

When Kim and I lived in a condo in the city, I got plenty of social interaction on a daily basis. Now we live in a house in the country. Unless I make an effort to reach out, I can go a week without having a meaningful conversation with anyone but Kim.

Plus, I lost touch with many of my old friends when Kim and I embarked on our fifteen-month RV trip around the U.S. When I returned home, I didn’t resume the relationships (and my friends didn’t either).

Some people have social interaction built into their lives. They’re surrounded by co-workers on weekdays. They attend church on Sunday. They take their kids to school events and/or participate in community organizations. I don’t do any of this.

For many years, I had a built-in social group because I took Crossfit classes. I got to interact with my fitness friends several days each week. But I haven’t attended classes in a long, long time, so that network has vanished too.

This summer, I’ve deliberately taken steps to reconnect with old friends. I invite them to join me at Portland Timbers games. I have lunch or dinner with them. We walk dogs together. Although I haven’t joined any community groups, Kim and I are both looking to do so.

There’s still more work to be done here, but I feel as if I’m moving in the right direction. It feels good to reconnect with people.

Exercising and Eating Right

Speaking of exercise, this is another area where I’ve let things slide.

I used to be fat. I ate poorly and I didn’t exercise, so naturally I gained weight and then maintained it. My poor choices were reflected in my (lack of) physical fitness.

In 2010, I resolved to change. I reduced my calorie intake and made better food choices. More importantly, I started cycling and discovered Crossfit. Within two years, I was the fittest I’d ever been in my life. I was lean. I was strong. It felt amazing.

No joke: Being fit and knowing that you’re fit is one of the best things you can do to boost your confidence and to fight depression. I’d always heard that. For a few years, I lived it.

I maintained my fitness until 2015. When Kim and I left for our RV trip, however, my health began to erode. At first, she and I made time to exercise but gradually our motivation vanished. At the same time, we were eating more unhealthy food (we wanted to try the regional cuisine!) and drinking more alcohol (we wanted to try the regional wine and beer!). We packed on the pounds.

Since returning to Portland in 2016, I’ve made intermittent attempts to exercise and eat right but nothing has stuck. “I had to buy fat clothes for our trip,” I told my therapist before we left for Italy in August. You can bet she had a chat with me about (a) my word choice and (b) my inability to follow through with fitness.

Now, I have a plan. My crazy summer schedule becomes less crazy on October 15th. After that, I have no travel planned. I will sign up for Orange Theory classes and attend them early every morning. (I have to exercise first thing or it won’t get done.)

In the meantime, I’ve already begun reducing my calorie intake and making healthier choices. My goal is to lose weight this winter instead of gain it.

Lowering My Expectations

Perhaps the biggest change I can make to improve my mental health is this: lowering my expectations for myself. I am a perfectionist. But perfectionism leads to both procrastination and disappointment.

“J.D., why are you forcing yourself to publish so much when you know that doing so is stressful?” my therapist asked in June. “This is an expectation you’ve placed on yourself. Nobody else has done this to you. You are making yourself unhappy.”

Good point. And, you know what? This was one of the primary reasons I sold Get Rich Slowly back in 2009. Ten years ago, I was deeply unhappy because of the publication schedule I had imposed upon myself.

So, Tom and I have been s-l-o-w-l-y transitioning to a different model here at the website.

  • I will write when I want to write (about what I want to write).
  • He and I are working together to revise and expand older articles. We’ll publish new and improved versions from time to time.
  • We’ve been publishing articles from guest authors and from places like NerdWallet.
  • We’re in the process of hiring a staff writer. (Maybe more than one?) If you’re interested, you should apply for the position.

But it’s not just here at the blog that I have to fight my high expectations. It’s everywhere in my life: my relationships, my health, my home — even my expectations of what I do in my spare time.

Yesterday, I was talking with my former Crossfit coach about returning to the gym. “J.D.,” he said, “I know you. And if I could offer one piece of advice, it’d be this: Set your bar for success very low. If you go in and expect to be where you were six years ago, you’re going to give up. For now, you should count it a success if you simply show up.”

“Showing up” seems like a low bar indeed, but my coach is right. If my expectations are too high, there’s no doubt that I’ll fall short. And when I do, I’ll be discouraged. It’ll stop me from starting! So, my first fitness goal will simply be: get to the gym each day.

It’s going to take some time for me to shed all of my expectations. (And, truthfully, I’m not sure discarding all expectations is even desirable.) But that’s why I’m working with a therapist.

Here’s an example of my expectations in action. Although I’ve agreed with my counselor that I should not adhere to a publication schedule at GRS, I begin to get antsy as days pass and I don’t have something new ready for readers.

In fact, this very article is a result of that. For the past seven days, I’ve been working almost non-stop even though there’s nothing new to show for it. It’s been a week since I published my last piece and it’s stressing me out.

When I sat down with my coffee this morning, I started writing a journal entry about how this expectation was making me unhappy. That journal entry turned into this article. I still have work to do on this haha!

Everything I Already Know

The funny thing about therapy (to me) is that my counselor’s advice is stuff I already know. I have a psychology degree, after all, and at one time I intended to become a therapist myself. The things she says and does are all very familiar to me. (She’s always telling me not to worry about things I cannot control, which is hilarious because that’s what I’m always telling you folks.)

But there’s a difference between knowing and doing. You can have all of the book knowledge in the world, but if you don’t put that knowledge into practice, what’s the point? My counselor’s job is to move me from words to action.

Honestly, I feel great right now. This is how I used to feel most of the time — and how I want to feel in the future. I’m enjoying life and getting shit done. The darkness is currently at bay. All I see is light.

Yes, I feel overwhelmed by how much work I have to get done — next Thursday, I leave for another 20 days on the road! — but instead of shirking the work, I’m doing it. And the workload isn’t due to negligence on my part. It’s just a perfect storm of deadlines and travel.

But in the back of my mind, I’m worried about what might happen this coming spring. The past few springs have been miserable for me. I’m dreading a return to the days of lying in bed, the lack of desire to talk to anyone about anything. I don’t like myself when I spend all day in my underwear playing videogames. Yuck.

I’m making the right moves now, though. I’m being proactive. I’m being a grasshopper, not an ant. While everything seems rosy and bright, I’m working to lay a foundation for future success, working to create systems that will help me maintain a positive direction even when the depression and anxiety come creeping back next year.

Fingers crossed that all of the preparation pays off!

The post How I’m fighting chronic depression and anxiety appeared first on Get Rich Slowly.

The best no foreign transaction fee credit cards of 2019

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Advertiser Disclosure: I Will Teach You To Be Rich has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. I Will Teach You To Be Rich and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Foreign transaction fees silently kill your credit card rewards.

Depending on the card, foreign transaction fees add a 1-3% fee on top of every foreign transaction.

For me, international trips can be one of the biggest expenses that I have all year. Flights, hotels, tours, restaurants, it adds up.

Adding a 3% fee on top of all that gets hefty.

Let’s say you spend $10,000 on an international trip and every dollar gets hit with a nasty 3% transaction fee. You’ll end up paying an extra $300 just for using that card. That’s a lot of money! And for what? The convenience of using a credit card? No thank you, that’s a terrible deal.

Even as you rack up points, perks, and cash back, you could negate all of those rewards by using the wrong card during one international trip.

Here’s the worst part.

Foreign transaction fees can ding you even if you never leave the country.

These fees trigger any time there’s a transaction through a foreign bank. So when you purchase something online that happens to be located internationally or uses an international bank, the fees can still trigger.

I can’t stand hidden fees like this.

Since I love to travel internationally, I have a mandate of only using credit cards without any foreign transaction fees. Even the one debit card I carry for emergencies doesn’t have them.

That way I never have to think about it.

Some types of cards are more prone to having foreign transaction fees than others:

  • Many travel rewards cards don’t have them.
  • Most business cards don’t have them.
  • Most cash back cards DO have them.

Regardless, I always double check every card that I’m considering.

If you never travel internationally, you can get away with choosing a card that has foreign transaction fees. Just be aware that you can still get hit with them occasionally.

The Top 3 No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards

How to Pick a No Foreign Transaction Fee Card

I have a deep guide on how to pick the right card in our best credit cards post. It walks you through everything you need to pick the right card from scratch.

As a quick summary:

  1. Start with your credit score. The best cards require higher credit scores so if you need to build credit first, get a card for building credit and then get a  better card later.
  2. Decide if you want simplicity or rewards maximization. Travel rewards cards get you more value back but require a bit more work. Cash back cards are super simple and don’t require any effort at all.
  3. Once you’ve decided to get a travel or cash back card, pick one primary spending card that’s the best fit for you. Try to align the rewards as best as you can with your spending.
  4. As an optional last step, consider getting additional cards to maximize rewards on other spending categories or to get extra perks. This is entirely optional, simplicity goes a long way and having a single card does make things much easier.

Go through the same process when looking for a no foreign transaction fee card. The only difference is that you’ll only consider cards without these fees as you go through the process.

Depending on the type of card that you want, your selection process will be a bit different.

Most travel rewards cards won’t have foreign transaction fees. Folks with travel cards tend to…well… travel so it’s a common perk to have no foreigh transaction fees. Once you’ve picked the card you want, check their fees to be safe but you shouldn’t have any issues getting the card you want. The point is you don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees until the end. Focus on finding the right card, then double check that there aren’t any fees.

Business cards are even easier. Almost all of them don’t have foreign transaction fees. So pick the best card, double check just to be safe, and you’ll be all set.

Cash back cards are almost the exact opposite. Most cash back cards have foreign transaction fees. It’s the most common downside of having a cash back card. Instead of picking the ideal cash back card and hoping it doesn’t have foreign transaction fees, it’s usually best to work in reverse. Start with the few cash back cards without fees and then pick the one that’s the best fit from that pool. Unfortunately, you’ll have much fewer options with cash back cards since it’s not a common perk.

I personally restrict myself to cards that have no foreign transaction fees. So this is the exact process that I use when looking for a new card..

Or you could go straight to our favorite no foreign transaction fee cards.

Our Favorite No Foreign Transaction Fee Cards

What if you want to jump straight to the best cards with no foreign transaction fees? Which should you choose?

We’ve combed through all the cards to find our top three favorites, one for each of the main card types: travel rewards, business, and cash back.

Chase Sapphire Preferred (Travel Rewards)

Chase Sapphire Preferred

I love love love the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

It’s probably the most popular card on the market right now and has been for a long time.

It earns 2X points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants.

For me, those tend to be my biggest spending categories. Earning double points on them gets me a ton of points over the year.

Does it have the best rewards or perks? Not quite. Other cards do earn more points or have more perks.

But it’s an incredible deal at a very reasonable annual fee of $95. The value that you get from this annual fee is unbeatable. That’s why it’s so popular.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards points are solid too, it’s one of the best points networks out there. You’ll be able to transfer your points at 1:1 to plenty of airline and hotel partners, giving you tons of flexibility on finding great redemptions.

For your first rewards card, I strongly recommend getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

It was my first rewards card and I racked up a ton of points with it that I used for many international trips.

And of course, you get all this with no foreign transaction fees. I used mine worldwide and never had a single issue.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Ink Business Preferred (Business)

Chase Ink Business Preferred

I love the Ink Business Preferred card for businesses, it’s a point-earning machine.

You’ll earn 3X points across these categories:

  • Travel
  • Shipping
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Ad purchases on social media sites and search engines

There is a cap of $150,000 for these bonus points. So once you’ve earned 3X points on $150,000 worth of spending, you’ll start earning 1 point per dollar after that. You also earn 1 point per dollar on all spending that doesn’t fall into the categories above.

If you max out the point bonus, you’ll earn 450,000 points per year.

I particularly love using this for online ad budgets. It’s easy to spend thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars every month on adds. When done correctly, that spending goes directly to growth for your business. Now add an incredible point bonus on top of it. That’s amazing.

If you average $12,500 across any of these spending categories or are even in the ballpark, get this card. You’ll rack up almost half a million points per year.

This is how business owners generate millions of points for first-class flights and nights at the best luxury hotels without having to pay for any of it. Other than a few minor fees, you’ll easily have enough points to travel in top-tier luxury for free.

These are also Chase Ultimate Points. You’ll have tons of flexibility in how you redeem your points for great airline tickets and hotel stays.

It does have an annual fee of $95 which is super low considering how many points you can earn with it.

Employee cards are also free, making it even easier for you to earn points off their purchases.

And of course, there’s no foreign transaction fees so you can use it worldwide. If you do any business internationally, get this card to avoid any foreign transaction fees. An extra 1-3% charge for businesses can add up to serious amounts of money.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards (Building Credit and Cash Back)

Hands down, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card is the best cash back card without foreign transaction fees.

Be aware that there are two versions of this card:

  • QuicksilverOne Rewards for average credit
  • Quicksilver Rewards for excellent credit

They’re almost identical.

They both get you 1.5% cash back on every purchase. You won’t have to worry about rotating categories, cash back limits or anything else. Simply spend money and get a flat 1.5% cash back.

Of course, neither of them have foreign transaction fees.

Now let’s get into the differences.

QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards

The QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards will accept folks with average credit but does come with an annual fee of $39. That’s a really low annual fee. As long as you spend $2,600 per year, you’ll come out ahead with your cash back rewards.

The APR is also higher but I never worry about that. And neither should you. You want to get in the habit of paying off your cards in full every month.

And it doesn’t have a signup bonus. I don’t worry about that either. Signup bonuses come and go quickly. In the long-run, they have very little impact on your total rewards.

This is a fantastic option if you’re building credit in order to get access to the better cards.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Quicksilver Cash Rewards

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

The Quicksilver Cash Rewards is only available if you have an excellent credit score. In exchange for having great credit, there won’t be an annual fee.

The APR is also lower and there’s a signup bonus. Again, neither of these should matter much.

Regardless of which one you get, I love the simplicity of these cards.

1.5% cash back without foreign transaction or annual fees. That’s an amazing deal.

No annual fee, no worrying about getting hit with a foreign transaction fee, no points to manage. Use the card anywhere and everywhere without ever having to think about it.

Are there cash back cards with better returns? Yes. You can find cards with higher cash back rewards. But they have foreign transaction fees and possibly annual fees too. That really dings the rewards that you get to keep.

This is the only cash back card I’d ever consider getting since I refuse to have any card with foreign transaction fees. I highly recommend it.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Advertiser Disclosure: I Will Teach You To Be Rich has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. I Will Teach You To Be Rich and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

The best no foreign transaction fee credit cards of 2019 is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

A DACA Recipient’s Guide to Overcoming Financial Barriers

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If you’re a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, also known as a DREAMer, you might face some unique financial barriers. Getting approved for a personal loan, buying a home, or paying for college can be trickier when banks and lenders don’t classify you as a permanent resident. But DREAMers still have plenty of options if you know where to look and what to ask. Here are the six most common financial issues DREAMers are likely to face, along with tips and resources that can help.

Paying for College

Unfortunately, DREAMers aren’t eligible for most federal or state financial aid for college, so you won’t be able to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for grants, scholarships, or loans. However, DREAMers can apply for financial aid from private sources, including private loans, and a few states do provide financial aid and/or in-state tuition rates to undocumented residents.

The following states offer in-state tuition rates to undocumented students:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington

Of these states, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey allow eligible undocumented students to access state financial aid. Oklahoma and Rhode Island allow in-state tuition rates to undocumented students through Board of Regents decisions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Check out the institution you’d like to attend for more information about in-state tuition rates.

You can apply for a private student loan from a lender like Stilt, Discover, or Citizens Bank in lieu of federal student loans. Most require a cosigner who has a Social Security number. Check the interest rate, repayment terms, and all of the requirements in detail before you sign a contract for a private student loan.

You can also look into a more general personal loan from a bank, credit union, or online lender. An “unsecured” personal loan lets you pay in installments over time without collateral to back your loan. In other words, the bank can’t seize your home or car if you don’t pay a personal loan back. Unlike other types of loans (such as student loans or auto loans), you can use a personal loan for almost anything you want, including school. Some common service charges you might see include origination fees, underwriting fees, credit check fees, and repayment fees. Choose a lender that offers low or no fees and limited charges.

Applying for Scholarships

A scholarship is like a loan for college you never have to pay back. “Many individuals believe DACA is an obstacle to receiving aid directly from the school, which is incorrect,” says Renata Castro, an immigration attorney in Pompano Beach, Florida. “Institutions are free to award scholarships as long as permanent immigrant status is not a requirement to obtaining the funds.”

Here are a few scholarship options for DREAMers:

Paying Renewal, Application and Legal Fees

DACA is no longer accepting new applicants, but if you’ve had DACA at some point in the past, you can submit a renewal application, according to the National Immigration Law Center. “DACA is currently in limbo and what DACA holders should really be doing is seeking legal advice on whether they may be able to pursue alternative relief,” says Castro. “For example, individuals who obtained DACA prior to 18 years old have not accumulated unlawful presence, and as such, may be able to obtain a green card through an employment-based green card application. Seeking competent legal advice is essential to navigating the uncertain waters of immigration law at this time.”

Castro says current DACA holders should save at least $1,000 for legal fees and immigration fees for every renewal period. Fees exclusively for DACA renewal are $495 and can be made online using a credit or debit card, sent through the mail via a credit card number, or check. You can also make a payment in person at a USCIS field office.

In certain situations, you may be exempt from having to pay the renewal fee. If you have to pay the $495 fee but can’t afford it out-of-pocket, you can apply for the following:

Paying for a Financial Emergency

As a DREAMer, it may be difficult for you to get cash in an emergency. But no matter what, taking out a payday loan should be your last resort. Payday loans usually accumulate interest at a predatory rate (as high as 400% per year), not to mention hidden fees. Instead, consider an online lender that provides personal loans with fast funding (sometimes within 24 hours), or better yet, applying for a credit card now and keeping it open for a future emergency. Not all credit card companies will accept your DACA social security number on an application, but many will, including Capital One.

Buying a Home

If you’re no longer a student, your next big financial goal might be buying a home. “Many of the normal avenues are closed to the DACA client,” says Mike Scott, senior mortgage loan originator for Independent Bank. “They cannot qualify for any loan in which the government is the backer. As a result, FHA loans, VA loans and USDA loans are automatically out. Fannie Mae, however, did recognize that the DACA recipient, for all intents and purposes, has a work permit, and allows the clients to qualify for any Fannie Mae product.”

Fannie Mae, or the Federal National Mortgage Association, is a leader in providing housing finance for homebuyers and renters in the United States. The Fannie Mae HomeReady loan, which allows for as little as 3% down, is ideal for DACA recipients. DREAMers must have:

      • Low income
      • Be first-time or repeat homebuyers
      • Limited cash down payment
      • A credit score greater than 620

“Now, keep in mind that just because Fannie Mae accepts the loan to a DACA recipient, not every lender out there will follow up with a loan to a DACA client,” says Scott. “Our current political uncertainty has caused many of the larger banks to turn the client away because of the government’s stance as to the legal residency status of the DACA client.”

Scott recommends looking into several lenders before deciding on the right one — and that includes confirming ahead of time whether a particular banking institution will allow you to pursue a loan. “In the case of larger institutions, they may find that they won’t even open any accounts for the DACA recipient, not even a checking/savings account. DACA recipients should find out if their financial institution will issue a mortgage loan to a DACA recipient. If the answer is ‘no,’ then why do they have their checking and savings accounts with that institution? They should take their money to one that accepts them.”

Building Credit

Your credit score can help you get the loans (and the better interest rates) you want in the future. Your credit score is a three-digit number that ranges from 300 to 850 and indicates to a lender how likely you are to make payments in full and on time. According to FICO, the average credit score is 704.

One of the quickest ways to start building credit is to get a credit card and make payments on time. If you don’t qualify for a “regular” credit card, try applying for a secured card to prove your creditworthiness. A secured credit card requires cash collateral in order to get one. The cash collateral that you put on the card is the credit line, or the amount you can charge. For example, you can put $400 on the card and you can charge up to $400. However, don’t apply for multiple cards within a short timeframe. When a credit card company processes your application, they pull a “hard credit check,” and too many of those in a short timeframe can negatively affect your credit score.

Organizations That Can Help

      • Hispanic Federation (New York): The Hispanic Federation supports Hispanic families and strengthens Latino institutions through education, health, immigration, civic engagement, economic empowerment and the environment.
      • Immigrants Rising (California): Helps young people get the education and career they want through personal, institutional and policy transformation.
      • National Immigration Law Center: The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) defends and advances the rights of immigrants with low income.

The post A DACA Recipient’s Guide to Overcoming Financial Barriers appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Michael Burry Trashes Index Funds – Are We Screwed?

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As a general rule, Mr. Money Mustache avoids reading the daily news and ignores the fluctuations of the stock market. And he advises you to do the same thing.

The negative factors of wasting your time, diluting your precious brainpower, and creating undue stress by worrying about things outside of your circle of control far outweigh any slight advantages you might get from the tiny slice of news stories that are actually useful and relevant to your daily life.

But on very rare occasions, something will squeeze its way through the News Sphincter that is worth addressing, and last week I learned of one of them. The basic idea was this:

Image source: Bloomberg
If you’re not a finance nerd, the phrase “Like Subprime CDOs”, just means “really bad”.

Michael Burry, who in my opinion is a relatively brilliant and well-known financial figure, voiced his concerns that we may be inflating a big bubble by concentrating too much of our money in passively managed index funds.

And because I have been telling you since the beginning that index funds are the best way to invest, my email inbox and Twitter feeds started filling with concerned questions and links to his interview on Bloomberg, asking if we should be taking this seriously.

So is it a big deal? Should we be worried?

The quick answer is No. And we’ll get into the full explanation below, but first let’s do a quick review of Index Funds in general.

Why Index Funds are Great

Index fund investing is both the simplest and the highest performing way to invest your money. It’s as simple as getting any brokerage account and buying the Vanguard Exchange traded fund called VTI, or getting a Betterment account and setting your allocation to at least 90% stocks.

It’s the ultimate win/win because you just set it and forget it. Both the math behind it, and the historical performance for the past 40 years (since the invention of index funds) has proven this out.

Yes, a small percentage of actively managed funds have beaten the market, and a larger percentage have trailed the market. But this over and underperformance itself tends to be random, and today’s winners often become tomorrow’s losers.

A bowl of actively managed funds. Can you pick the winner?

And here’s the real problem: you can’t predict in advance which of these horses you are betting on. So your best bet is to ride directly in the middle of the pack, while minimizing the fees you pay for the privilege.

But suddenly, Michael Burry says we are reaching the point where this model may soon stop working. So who is right? Mr. Money Mustache or Michael Burry? Have I been naively misleading you?

And what about the reassuring words of Jim Collins in his book The Simple Path to Wealth or rather amusing Guided Stock Market Meditation he put up on YouTube? Is Jim full of it too, in light of these new comments from a financial expert?

Now, we are already treading onto thin ice here, because similar stuff is in the news every day, and most of it is junk. Financial ‘experts’ are a dime a dozen, and just because somebody got something right once (in this case predicting the 2008 financial meltdown), doesn’t mean they will be right in the future.

Because the financial news industry is powered by profits which come from clicks and traffic, their job is to shock and worry and distract you as much as possible so you will click your way through more of their bait. Within the context of that single Burry interview, for example, I saw the following bits of “Breaking News”:

Big gain! (never mind that aside from meaningless fluctuations, the market has gone exactly nowhere in the past nineteen months since January 2018)
Down Six Percent! (Oops it was back up to those highs by the time I checked)
Triple digits! (oh, wait, that is less than a third of one percent because the index is about 27,000)
Volatility! Impact! (oh wait, that is all just the random fluctuation it always does and it means absolutely NOTHING to you as an investor)

NONE of these things are the least bit newsworthy, and they shouldn’t even be mentioned in a footnote, let alone labeled “Breaking News.”

So, stock market reporting is silly, and predictions of doom should be viewed even more skeptically. Because the nature of our economic system assures that virtually 100% of predictions of financial doom will always be wrong, because we are not really all doomed – the future is very bright.

However, I’ve read a lot of Mr. Burry’s writing and have more respect for his analysis than that of permanent fearmongers like Peter Schiff or Dmitri Orlov. So I pay attention to his opinions, even when they differ from my favorite permanent realist-optimists Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

So the summary of his argument is this:

  1. Passive investing tends to distort the prices of individual stocks, because we buy everything in a fixed ratio without considering the value of each company.
  2. The “exit door” is small – there is a lot of money invested in fairly small companies whose shares are not frequently traded. So if we all tried to sell at once, we’d have way too many sellers and very few buyers. This would cause a massive price crash in the stock prices of these small companies.
  3. There are some complex bits under the hood of index funds – things like options and derivatives that can break under stress and cause money losses or more volatility.

Now at this point, the stock traders and active fund managers are probably cheering and jeering at us:

“YAY! Told you all along – come back to us where you belong.

We are well worth our much higher fees because we are gonna beat the market! Just look at this cherry-picked data from the current ten year bull market!”

But instead of picking a fight, let’s just address these points one by one:

  1. Yeah, but active traders have been making this argument against passive investing forever. The theory is correct, but in practice it would only be a problem if too many of us became passive and there were no active traders left. Thus the real question is: Are we close to this tipping point? And the easy answer is “Not even close”. Index funds own about 18 percent of global shares, and 45 percent here in the US. And active trading still outweighs index fund trades by 22-to-1.
  2. A small exit door only matters if everyone is running for the exits at once. And even then, as index fund investors (as opposed to active stock traders), we don’t do that. And even in the event of liquidity problems in a big sell-off, the only downside would be some bigger temporary price swings. We don’t care about those either.
  3. To better answer this question, I interviewed some of the people deep inside the machine – Betterment’s investing team and their director Dan Egan. A summary of their thoughts – This is actually more of a problem for “Synthetic” or leveraged index funds, not the true funds we invest in. For the most part, in the index funds you and I use, our money simply purchases real shares of businesses.

Point #1 above deserves a bit more of an answer. Because the real question here is “how many active investors does it take to balance out a market?” And like everything in life, this is not a black-and-white question. Instead we can look at this as being on spectrum. For reference, this is where we are now:

The great increase in Index fund investment after MMM and Jim Collins started advocating for it 🙂
Image source – Morningstar / CNBC

A Purely Active Market

If everybody was an active investor or speculator, you would just have a sea of squabbling bullshit. Even today, people are trading back and forth for no reason just based on what they think the price will be later this afternoon. Even worse, you have “technical” traders, who place bets on the immediate future of a stock based not on fundamentals, but on obscure (and proven to be useless) mathematical patterns of what the stock price has done in the recent past. I may be unfairly lumping thoughtful value-based investors in here with day traders, but stock price prediction is a slippery slope and most of the trading volume on today’s exchanges is very slippery. And don’t even get me started on the nonsense of “high frequency trading” and the “flash crash” of 2010. No shortage of overly active trading.

If Everybody Was Passive

At the other extreme of this would be an “All Index Fund” world, where giant zombie-like index funds would just buy all the companies in proportion to their current market value, even when those companies have stopped making money or are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Nobody would be even looking at the earnings, so stock prices would never drop, even when the underlying companies go extinct. And on the flip side of that, companies who became vastly more profitable would never be rewarded with higher share prices.

In this case, a gigantic market opportunity would open up. Apple shares would still be at their 1980 IPO price of 39 cents per share (after accounting for splits), and each share would pay an annual dividend of $3.08, which is like getting a 792% annual interest rate on your investment. Individual investors (even me!) would come back to the market and they would flood in and buy Apple shares, until the share price rose up to a level where supply and demand balanced out. And today, that price happens to be about $216 per share.

There are plenty of people out there, finding and exploiting these little opportunities. People like outspoken tech investor and futurist Catherine Wood speak authoritatively about them – but only time will tell if her $2.3 billion ARK capital fund proves to outperform the market over the long run.

And that is the real answer to question #1: If Actively managed funds start consistently outperforming index funds on average across the entire industry, then we have reached the point of “Peak Indexing”, and you should switch to a good low-fee active fund.

This is far from happening, but I’ll let you know if it ever does.

And for every successful niche-finder, there are a hundred wannabe players, spouting buzzwords and predictions, getting ever-louder when they are right but going mysteriously off the radar when proven wrong. This survivorship bias ensures that if we read the news, we get the mistaken impression that most stock predictors know what they are talking about. They don’t.

So really, that’s all there really should be to stock investing. A small group of dedicated experts seek out the best values, and in a big enough market a larger amount of index fund money can tag along.

Never Forget What Stock Investing Really IS

The value of one share of a company is equal to the “net present value” of all of its future lifetime dividends payable to you the shareholder. Higher expected profits mean higher eventual dividends and thus higher stock prices. Lower profits mean lower prices. And a company that never makes a profit over its lifetime should not even be listed on the stock exchange.

Lower expected interest rates also mean those future dividend payments are worth more of in today’s dollars, which means today’s stocks are worth more. Which is why drops in the interest rate often trigger simultaneous boosts in all share prices.

Some companies don’t currently pay dividends, but that is only because we the shareholders have given the management permission to temporarily reinvest profits into growth – in hopes of larger future dividends.

If we knew (theoretically) in advance that a company would never pay any of its future earnings to shareholders, those shares should be worth zero. A company which never produces and returns value to shareholders is worthless from a financial perspective – unless you could get someone to buy your proven-worthless slips of paper purely on pure speculation, in hopes of selling it to someone at a higher price in the future – like gold and bitcoin. Speculation of this type is a less-than-zero-sum game, a tax on overall human prosperity, which is why you shouldn’t waste your time on it.

So the stock market really is built upon the fundamentals of earnings and dividends. Not on news snippets and soundbites and rapid trading. And since publicly traded companies are big, slow entities with hundreds of employees and thousands of customers, their fates simply don’t change very quickly. “Analysts” who try to predict these future earnings with any certainty rarely outperform a coin toss.

So We Can All Just Stay the Course and Relax

Just as with other bits of news in the financial media, you do not need to take any action. Keep investing and stay the course. If you are so inclined, study up on profitable real estate investments as a side hustle, and if you want a bit of a safety margin in exchange for slightly lower returns in the long run, consider paying off your mortgage as you approach early retirement.

Once you arrive, you will probably find that money and investments are the last thing on your mind. After all, that’s what Financial Independence is all about – becoming free from the need to worry about money.

It’s a nice place to be, and I’ll see you when you get here!

The best business credit cards of 2019

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Business credit cards have the potential to unlock ridiculous rewards for you.

Since businesses tend to spend a lot more money, you can earn a LOT more rewards.

Don’t skimp on this, get your business set up on the right credit cards. A little time on this could easily earn you tens of thousands of dollars in rewards value.

The Top 5 Business Credit Cards

Jump ahead to

The Best Business Credit Cards For Travel

How do some folks rack up millions of points and never pay for travel again?

By owning a business and running as many expenses as possible through their business credit card.

This is when the rewards get ridiculous.

Depending on the size of your business, it’s possible to rack up enough points to stay at the nicest hotels in the world and fly first class on multiple international trips each year. Then pair those points with perks like airport lounge access and free hotel upgrades. You’ll be traveling like a VIP on every trip.

The cost? Just the annual fee charges on your credit cards and small airline or hotel fees that can’t be covered with points. Otherwise, it’ll all be free.

If you love to travel and own a business, I strongly recommend getting a travel business credit card. The rewards are too good to pass up.

You might even consider getting two business travel cards. Use one as your point-generating machine and the other for travel perks.

The Best Cash Back Business Cards

Running a business isn’t easy for any of us. We’re always juggling a ton of stuff. When we have to manage so much, simplifying any aspect of our business goes a long way.

One way to do this is by picking a cash back card for your business.

I love cash back cards for their simplicity.

There’s no points to manage, no spending categories to worry about, no partners to transfer rewards to, all that stuff goes away.

Simply spend money for your business and get a straight cash back on every purchase.

The real benefit comes from freeing up your mental energy to keep growing your business. I can’t overstate the value of this. Less stuff to manage means better decisions. In the long-run, most folks probably earn a better return from having more time and energy than they do from having rewards points.

If you dread having one more thing to worry about by having a rewards points program, skip them altogether and get a cash back card for your business. It’s like getting a 1-2% discount on every purchase that you make. That’s a great deal considering there’s nothing you need to do after you get the card.

Even if the other business credit cards aren’t for you, at least get a cash back card.

The Best Fair Credit Business Cards

Business credit scores work a bit differently than personal credit scores.

If you’re applying for a business credit card as a sole proprietorship, your personal credit score will heavily influence the credit score of your business. Even if your business has an employment identification number (EIN) and is a separate entity, your personal score can still influence it.

On top of that, the formulas and data for business scores are more varied. Each business credit score company has its own method.

This means two things:

  1. If your have poor or fiar personal credit, that will likely impact the credit of your business.
  2. Even if you have good personal credit, your business might not have enough credit for the better cards.

In either case, you may have to build up the credit of your business before getting the best business credit cards.

To do that, use the Capital One Spark Classic card.

There’s no annual fee, gets a straight 1% back on every purchase, and will approve businesses with a wider range of credit than other cards.

Get this card if you’ve had trouble getting approved for a couple of the other cards or you have fair personal credit.

The Best Cards For Loyal Frequent Travelers

For personal use, I’m not the biggest fan of loyalty cards. I like having the flexibility to travel wherever and however I like.

But as a business owner, I completely endorse loyalty cards.

When traveling for business, I have a completely different mindset. I don’t care about unique or memorable travel. I want fast decisions, consistency, and dependability. Get in, do the job, and get out.

This means I try to fly the same airlines and stay at the same hotels when traveling for business. Loyalty cards are perfect for this.

For example, I have a friend that helps open to new Chipotle locations across the US. He usually travels once per week for a one night trip. Sometimes he’ll fly back on the same day. The point is that he’s racking up a ton of miles back and forth to smaller airports. Guess what airline he uses? Southwest. In this case, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card is a perfect fit. He’d get upgrades, bonus points, and wifi credits when flying.

Each set of credit card parks is a bit different but they include things like:

  • Priority boarding
  • Upgrades
  • Bonus points when spending money with that airline or hotel
  • Employee cards that add points to your account

Get the cards that match your travel habits. You’re already spending the money anyway, get the card perks to go with it.

Even if that means locking into the same airline and hotel when traveling for work, I consider that a benefit. Consistency when traveling more than makes up for a slight decrease in flexibility. Here’s a few rules that I follow when picking the right loyalty programs for my business:

  • If I travel to major cities or internationally, I pick the major airline (United, Delta, or American Airlines) that has the most flights out of my home airport.
  • If I travel to small airports often, pick an airline like Southwest.
  • Pick Hilton or Marriott and stick to it. Both have good coverage worldwide and their loyalty programs are very similar.

How to Find The Right Business Credit Card For You

Here’s the step-by-step process that I use to find the right card.

Step 1: How good is the credit for your business?

For individuals, everyone has their own score and scores are all basically calculated the same way across different credit agencies.

For businesses, things get more complicated.

First, your individual credit score might be used for a new business until it has its own credit history.

Second, business credit scores can be calculated quite differently depending on the agency.

This means that you might have to build the credit for your business from scratch regardless of how good your personal credit score is. And if you have little or no credit yourself, that could also impact your business credit.

The best business credit cards all require excellent credit. So if you haven’t been approved for a few of them or know that you need to build up your credit, start with a business credit card that helps you build up your credit card over time.

Our favorite card for building credit is the Capital One Spark Classic.

Step 2: Do you want to maximize value or simplicity?

Once your credit is high enough, you’ll need to decide whether reward value or simplicity matters to you more.

I personally prefer to maximize reward value. That’s why I always pick points cards that I can then redeem for international flights and hotels. I also use travel cards to get perks while traveling. All this gets me the most value in rewards.

However, I totally understand when folks want to skip all that and keep things simple. Points do take more effort to manage. You have to track them, transfer them to the right programs, find good points deals, and plan out your trips. Managing a business is complicated enough, keeping things simple goes a long way to helping you stay focused on your business.

If managing points and travel cards sounds like a headache, skip those cards entirely and get a cash back card. Giving up a bit of rewards value for simplicity is a great trade.

And if you don’t travel, pick a cash back card. The points cards really shine with travel perks and redemptions. If you don’t travel, you won’t be able to get the same amount of value. Sticking with a cash back card will be a much better option.

Step 3: Pick a primary spending card

Once you’ve decided on whether to get a travel card or a cash back card, your next step is to pick your primary spending card.

No card is perfect.

Some have better perks, some have bonus points on certain categories rather than others, some are simpler.

No one gets a card that’s perfect. The goal is to find the card the overlaps with your business spending the most.

For example, if you want a travel rewards card and spend a lot on online advertising, get the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and use it as your primary spending card across all spending categories. You can always get additional cards later, start with one card as your primary card.

Here are a few of the cards that we frequently end up with:

  • To maximize points, get the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
  • To maximize travel perks, The Business Platinum Card from American Express
  • For cash back, get Capital One Spark Cash for Business.

Step 4: Add optional cards for extra perks or rewards maximization

This step is entirely optional. Many businesses can stick to a single rewards credit card and never need to go beyond that.

And if your goal is simplicity, I strongly recommend that you stick to a single card. Additional cards will only add complexity.

But you may be okay with some extra complexity in order to get some nicer perks.

Especially for frequent travelers, a few extra cards can really up your travel game. Here are a few options that I’d consider:

  • If you don’t have it already, consider the The Business Platinum Card from American Express. It’s the true VIP travel card with a bunch of perks that you won’t find anywhere else. Serious business travelers usually have one of these.
  • Get the airline card for the airline that you fly the most. Just make sure that the perks are worth the annual fee to you. Most likely, you won’t be using this for any ongoing spending since the miles earning power tends to be lower than other cards.
  • If you travel for business regularly, consider a hotel loyalty card for the hotel chain that you use the most. I like to stick to the largest chains like Hilton and Marriott for business since they have locations in most cities. The perks and loyalty status that come with their cards are definitely worth it.
  • To really push the points earning, consider multiple points cards. I avoid this myself because I find it to be more effort than it’s worth. But it is an option if you’re trying to rack up as many points as possible. With multiple points cards, you can use each for different types of expenses, getting as many bonus points as possible. Some also have limits where the bonus points stop at a certain spending amount. Once you hit that limit, you can rotate to another card that still has bonus points for that category.

Again, all this is optional. Only consider these options if you’re comfortable managing some extra complexity on top of the card you already have.

Business Credit Card Reviews

Let’s go through our deep-dives on all our recommended cards.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express Review

Amex Business Platinum

You won’t earn as many points as some of the other cards on this list but you’ll get perks that you can’t find anywhere else.

You’ll earn these points on your spending:

  • 5X points on flights and prepaid hotels via
  • 1.5 points on purchases of $5,000 and above. If you regularly make large purchases, this could come in handy.
  • 1 point on everything else.

And if you love perks, this is THE card to get.

The biggest perk: access to the Centurion Lounges. They’re amazing and only available to cardholders. If you fly regularly through an airport with one, this could be worth the fee on its own. Definitely check the list of locations though, only about a dozen US airports have them. You’ll also get access to the International American Express lounges and Delta Sky Club access when flying Delta.

American Express did add a perk with WeWork. You’ll get a year of Platinum Global Access. This gets you access to WeWork common areas during the normal business hours of any WeWork location. If you travel regularly, this would give you a reliable place to work in major cities.

It has a few other perks worth mentioning:

  • Hilton Honors Gold Status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status. This is a huge perk if you regularly stay at either hotel chain but don’t want to bother getting a dedicated loyalty card for that hotel.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-check, a pretty standard perk these days.
  • $200 in Dell statement credit
  • $200 airline fee credit but it’s limited. First you have to pick the airline that you want this to apply to. And it doesn’t count towards flights, only incidental fees like baggage fees and in-flight drinks.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

All this for a $595 annual fee, one of the highest in the industry. If the perks are worth the added expense for your business, get the card.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Capital One Spark Miles for Business Review

Capital One Spark Miles for Business

This card may be simple but it packs an amazing punch.

You’ll get 2X points on everything.

That’s right, double points on every dollar spent. That’s an amazing deal. I also love the simplicity of it. No categories to remember at all.

It also comes with Global Entry or TSA Pre-check Credit, no foreign transaction fees, and free employee cards.

The only downside to this card is the points network. Well, it’s not really a downside, it’s just something to be mindful of.

You’ll be collecting Capital One points which can be transferred to these partners:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air France KLM
  • Air Canada
  • Alitalia
  • Asia Miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Airways
  • EVA Air
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • JetBlue
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines

Emirates, Etihad, EVA, and Singapore are all amazing airlines. As long as you enjoy international travel, you’ll get a good use of your points. Other than JetBlue, there aren’t any US-based airline partners. You’ll still be able to book US flights through other airlines or through the Capital One travel portal. But you won’t have as much flexibility as other points programs. Not a deal-breaker by any means, just something to watch out for in case you have a strong preference on airlines.

There is an annual fee of $95 which is waived the first year. That’s extremely reasonable for the value that you get out of this card.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

American Express Business Gold Card Review

American Express Business Gold Card

The American Express Gold card gives you a ton of points and flexibility on how to earn those points.

Here’s how it works.

The Gold card has 6 categories of spending:

  • Airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • U.S. purchases for advertising in select media (online, TV, radio)
  • U.S. purchases made directly from select technology providers of computer hardware, software, and cloud solutions
  • U.S. purchases at gas stations
  • U.S. purchases at restaurants
  • U.S. purchases for shipping

Each month, you’ll earn 4X points on the top two categories. So wherever you spend the most, you’ll get bonus points. This applies to the first $150,000 in spending for the year. Once you’ve gotten 4X points on $150,000 worth of spending, you’ll get 1 point on everything after that.

And you get 1 point on all other purchases.

This gives you a ton of flexibility. Let’s say you get a huge advertising bill one month and a giant software annual contract the following month. It’s possible to get 4X points on both without any effort on your part.

No other card gets you this many points with this amount of flexibility. For point generation, it’s easily one of the best.

Keep in mind that these categories are only for US spending. If the bulk of you spending is international, you won’t be able to rack up enough bonus points for this card to be worth it.

Unlike some of the other American Express cards, you do have the ability to pay down purchases of $100 or more over time. You’ll get charged interest but it is an option. Every purchases under $100 must be paid in full every month. While I always recommend paying every card in full each month, this option does give you some cash flow flexibility on large purchases when your business needs it.

There are no foreign transaction fees to worry about.

You also get two travel perks when you book hotels through The Hotel Collection with American Express Travel:

  • $100 hotel credit, to spend on qualifying dining, spa, and resort activities.
  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available.

It does have a $295 annual fee which is on the high end. Since there aren’t many perks, make sure you can take full advantage of the 4X point categories.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Capital One Spark Cash for Business Review

Capital One Spark Cash for Business

I truly love the simplicity of this card.

2% cash back on everything. Super simple and a great return for not having to do anything

There aren’t any foreign transaction fees either so feel free to use this card for all your purchases. And the employee cards are free, helping you get more cash back across your company.

The only downside is the $95 annual fee. While it’s much smaller than other fees, this will ding the total value of the rewards a bit.

You’ll need to spend enough on the card to cover the annual fee and still come out ahead compared to a standard 1% cash back card without an annual fee. If you consistently spend $10,000 annually (about $830/month) on your card, you’ll get enough cash back on this card to justify the fee. If you spend less than that, you’ll get a better return from a 1% cash back card without an annual fee.

If you don’t travel much or want to keep things as simple as possible for your business, get this cash back card.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card Review

Chase Ink Business Preferred

This card is a point-earning machine. It’ll rack up more points than you’ll know what to do with.

Here’s how it works.

You’ll earn 3X points on the first $150,000 in combined spending each year on these categories:

  • Travel
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines

If you spend a lot on travel and shipping, those could be big winners.

The other key category is the social media and search engine spending. Those advertising budgets can get quite large at many businesses. I’ve personally managed budgets as large as $170,000 per month in spending. If you’re already paying for this advertising, get the 3X points by using this card.

After that, you’ll earn 1 point for every $1.

If you max out the 3X spend limit, that’s 450,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points every year.

Any business with $150,000 of annual spending or below in theses point categories should get this card.

The best part is these points are pretty valuable. They’re Chase Ultimate Reward points which is one of the top point programs. It has a ton of great partners with 1:1 points transfers. This means you’ll be able to book amazing flights and hotels with your points.

While there aren’t many perks on this card, that’s not really the point. This card is all about point generation for a very reasonable annual fee of $95.

And when your business is ready, it has free employee cards so their spending earns you even more points.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Capital One Spark Classic for Business Review

Capital One Spark Classic for Business

This is the ideal card for building credit.

First, the cash back is 1% on every purchase. Super easy and simple.

Second, there’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. Employee cards are also free.

Third, it’s designed for folks with average credit so you have a much better chance at getting approved than the other cards in this list. If you’ve been denied by some of the better cards, try applying for this one. It’s a solid card to start with. Use it to build your credit and apply for one of the better rewards cards later on.

Yes, the APR is pretty high but that shouldn’t matter. Always pay your cards off in full every month. Otherwise none of the rewards will be worth it, you’ll pay more in interest charges than you’ll ever get back in rewards.

The Capital One Spark Classic gives you 1% cashback on everything, has no fees, and is easier to get approved for. That’s an ideal card for building credit.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card Review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business

Normally, I wouldn’t recommend that someone commit to Southwest as their primary airline and points program. The lack of international flights and airline partners really limits the usefulness of the miles.

That said, Southwest could easily beat every other airline for you. It all comes down to the type of flying that you do.

If you often travel to smaller airports, Southwest could be a game-changer. They don’t have a traditional hub-and-spoke model like the major airlines. That means they have a lot more direct flights to and from smaller airports. Instead of flying small airport -> major hub -> small airport, you have a much better chance at going direct with Southwest.

As much as I like free international flights, I’d immediately make Southwest my primary airline if I traveled to smaller airports regularly for business. Cutting out connections easily makes it worth it to me.

If that’s you, I recommend getting the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card. Why not get some extra Southwest perks on flights you have to fly anyway?

Granted, it is possible to book flights on other carriers through the Southwest rewards portal. But in general, these portals don’t give deals that are as good as transferring points into airline programs directly.

You’ll get these perks when flying:

  • 4 upgraded boardings every year when available
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • Inflight WiFi Credits
  • 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points towards A-List and A-List Preferred status for every $10,000 spent, up to $100,000.

There are some bonus points but they’re generally not as strong as other card programs:

  • 3 points per $1 spent at Southwest and at partners including Hertz, Marriott, Hyatt, and others
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services
  • 1 points per $1 on all other purchases
  • 9,000 anniversary points

Like most airline cards, I’d use a better rewards card to rack up cash back or points while using this card to get extra perks when flying Southwest.

There’s also no foreign transaction fees.

It all comes down to whether the perks are worth the $199 annual fee to you. If you fly Southwest often and the fee is worth the perks, get the card.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express Review

Amex Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Card

The mile-earning potential on this card is pretty limited so you won’t want to use this as your primary card.

You’ll earn:

  • 2  miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases

This is much lower than other cards.

The perks, however, are quite good for Delta flyers.

You’ll get the standard airline perks like priority board and a free checked bag. Even if you fly a few times a year on Delta, this makes a huge difference.

The stand-out perk is the companion fare. You’ll receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your card. That’s a fantastic deal. That’s like having a 50% discount on one domestic trip per year. It’s worth getting the card for this perk alone.

You’ll also receive a 20% savings in statement credit on all in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets. This isn’t a game-changer but it’s a nice little perk.

Lastly, this card could help you super-charge your status progress. When you make $25,000 in eligible purchases on the card in a calendar year, you’ll earn 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs). And when you make $50,000 in eligible purchases on the card in the same calendar year and earn an extra 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs.

This will help a lot if you’re trying to get to the highest levels of Delta status. But it does require that you use your Delta card for purchases. Since you’d have to give up higher value points by not using another card, the costs can be substantial. Let’s say that you only earn one Delta mile per dollar on $50,000 worth of spending. You’d be giving up 100,000-150,0000 points by not using another card that gives 2-3X points on those same purchases. That’s a lot of points. Only use this card to pursue Delta status if you’re already maxing out bonus categories on your primary spending card or you have a lot of purchases throughout the year that would only earn you 1 point per dollar anyway.

The card does come with an $195 Annual fee but no foreign transaction fee. When you factor in the campion fare, that’s an amazing deal.

If you fly Delta often and the Delta perks are worth the annual fee to you, get this card. Just don’t make it your primary spending card for your business.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard Review

Like most airline loyalty cards, consider this card if you fly American Airlines often. You’ll get a nice set of perks that are worth the annual fee. But avoid using this card for most purchases since the miles-earning power is limited.

You’ll get these perks when flying American:

  • Priority boarding
  • Free checked bag for you and up to 4 companions
  • 25% discount on in-flight wifi
  • 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases

And you’ll earn these miles:

  • Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on cable and satellite providers, eligible American Airlines purchases, gas stations, select telecommunications merchants, and car rentals.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on other purchases.

While you do get double miles across a large number of categories, it is limited to only 2X miles when other business cards give out 3X and higher points on their top categories. I’d only use this card for spending categories that your primary card only gives 1X points on.


You can earn a companion certificate for domestic travel after spending $30,000. But since this card doesn’t earn a ton of points, you’ll have to give up points that you could have earned on another card. This significantly devalues the companion certificate. Because of this, I wouldn’t factor this into your decision on whether or not to get the card.

It has a $99 annual fee that is waived for the first year. And no foreign transaction fees to worry about.

Get this card if you fly American Airlines regularly and the extra perks are worth the $99 annual fee. It also makes for a good secondary card for getting bonus miles on spending categories that your primary card doesn’t cover.

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card Review

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

I highly recommend getting a hotel loyalty card if you travel often for business. When I travel, the consistency and dependability that comes from staying at the same hotels gives me more time and energy to focus on whatever objectives that I have for my business.

Since I’m staying at the same hotels consistently, a hotel card gets me extra perks and helps me rack up more points.

This card will earn you a ton of points:

  • 12X points per dollar for purchases at Hilton hotels
  • 6X points on business on U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchases directly from U.S. service providers, U.S. purchases for shipping, U.S. restaurants, flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex Travel, and car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies
  • 3X Points per dollar on other purchases

Yes, that’s a lot of points across a lot of spending categories. The point-earning is so good on this card that you could consider making it your primary spending card. The only downside is that these points will be Hilton Honors points which are great as long as you’re planning on using them for Hilton redemptions. They’ll have less flexibility and value when trying to get international flights or nights at other hotels.

You’ll also get Gold Status with Hilton. This includes perks like late-checkout, free breakfast,  free upgrades when available, and 5th standard reward night for free. It’s only one level below their top tier: Diamond.

At different spending levels, you’ll unlock several great perks:

  • $15,000 gets a free weekend night award
  • $40,000 earns you Hilton Honors Diamond status
  • $60,000 gets a second free weekend night award

And since the point-earning is strong on this card, there’s no major downside for using it regularly on purchases. I recommend using it as a secondary card for purchases categories that don’t get bonus points on your primary card. Many businesses will be able to hit these spending levels to unlock those amazing perks.

All this for a very reasonable $95 annual fee. If you stay at Hilton hotels a few times a year, it’s absolutely worth it.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

United Explorer Business Card Review

Chase United Explorer Business Card

A great option if you fly United a lot.

You can earn some bonus points with this card:

  • 2 miles per $1 at gas stations and office supply stores
  • 2 miles per $1 on purchases from United

All other purchases get 1 mile per dollar.

But honestly, the miles earning power isn’t great when other cards that produce 3X or 4X points which can be transferred into United at a 1:1 point transfer.

The real advantage from this card (like all airline cards) comes from the United perks that you get when flying:

  • Priority boarding
  • Free checked bag
  • 2 United club passes per year

Employee cards are also free and there aren’t any foreign transaction fees.

All for a reasonable $95 annual fee

Are the United perks worth $95/year to you? If so, get the card. If not, skip it. It’s that simple.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card Review

Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card

If you travel a lot for your business, you should absolutely consider a hotel loyalty card. And the Marriot Bonvoy Business is one of the best options.

First, you get serious point-earning potential with this card:

  • 6X points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 4X points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers, and U.S. purchases for shipping
  • 2X points on all other purchases

You’ll also get put on the fast-track for getting higher tiers of status at Marriott hotels.

First, you get complimentary Silver Elite Status. This gets you 10% bonus points, priority late check-out, and a dedicated reservation line.

Second, you receive credit for 15 nights towards the next level of Marriott Bonvoy Elite status each calendar year. This makes it a lot easier to unlock higher status levels with even better perks. If you’re trying to get into the highest tiers, this perk is essential.

On top of all that, you’ll get up to two free nights per year:

  • 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary.
  • 1 Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases in a calendar year

It also comes with complimentary in-room, premium Internet access during your stays.

There’s no foreign transaction fees to worry about either.

While it is possible to transfer Marriot points into partner programs, the transfer rate is usually 3:1 which is pretty terrible. That negates most of the point-earning power of the card. So if you get this card, I’d plan on using points exclusively at Marriott properties. You’ll easily get the most value that way.

The annual fee is only $125 too. The free night award covers this on its own.

If you travel regularly for business, I strongly recommend getting a hotel loyalty card like the  Marriott Bonvoy Business.

*Terms apply Learn more about this card.

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The best business credit cards of 2019 is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich.