Home can feel like one of the safest places in the world, but dangerous and even deadly disasters such as earthquakes, floods and storms can threaten that safety.
When disaster strikes, being prepared is crucial to your survival. For apartment-dwellers, it’s critical that they understand how their apartment could be at risk during common disasters and what they or the community’s management should do to prepare.
Apartment living doesn’t make one safe from the threat of floods and the damage that they do. Often, flooding is caused by leaks, such as those from malfunctioning appliances or faulty pipes, but it can also be caused by natural causes, such as hurricanes and prolonged rain.
Water from flooding can damage both personal belongings, such as furniture and electronics, and the apartment itself. Mold and structural damage to flooring and walls are some of the common problems that come from flooding.
To protect your valuables, get flood insurance in addition to renters insurance. This type of insurance will cover damage caused by flooding, where renters insurance alone may not.
Another important step in protecting your valuables is to place items that can be destroyed by water in a location that’s high enough to be out of the way of rising water in the event of a flood. These types of items should be moved off the ground and away from areas, such as bathrooms that may flood accidentally.
Residents living in flood zones should ask apartment management about sandbags during heavy rainfall, which can prevent outside water from reaching ground-level apartments. Unplug electrical items if the apartment begins to flood during a storm, and if possible, vacate the premises.
In a hurricane, people living in an apartment face damage from heavy rain and winds that can be as strong as 155 mph. This may result in windows breaking and damage to the apartment’s roof. Flooding from rain creates another concern during hurricanes.
To protect the apartment, bring in any patio/balcony furniture that high winds may toss against windows. Board up windows and sliding doors, and ask the apartment management if they’ll provide the necessary materials.
People who live on upper floors should shelter in apartments at lower levels when possible. Regardless of where the unit is located, stay toward the center in a room with no windows. Closets and bathrooms are good spots within an apartment to seek shelter. Keep a battery-operated radio on, and evacuate if instructed to do so.
Renters, particularly those who live in hurricane zones, should also verify that they’re covered with hurricane insurance.
Tornadoes are highly destructive, with winds that reach as high as 300 m.p.h. This can lift objects like trees from the ground and the roof off of a building. Damage to an apartment may include harm to walls and windows from outside projectiles and roof damage that ranges from mild to ripped off entirely.
The first step of protecting your apartment and yourself is to purchase an insurance policy that covers tornado damage. This is crucial for individuals living in areas that are at high risk for tornadoes.
To reduce the risk of projectiles, remove furniture from the patio or balcony. Speak with management about securing or removing items that can be lifted by high winds. The management should also trim branches in the complex that may break and fly through the air. Individuals living in high-risk areas should also talk with the management about the installation of storm shutters.
During a tornado, apartment residents generally don’t have a basement to shelter in. Instead, they should avoid windows and go to an apartment or room on the lowest floor, if possible. The room you choose to take shelter in should be near the center of the apartment. If staying in a bathroom, get into the bathtub. Wherever you go, covering your head and neck or wearing a helmet can help to prevent injury.
When the violent shaking of an earthquake hits, it can cause more than just serious injury â it may also damage the structural integrity of an apartment. This could include cracks in walls, the ceiling or the foundation itself, should it shift during the quake. Earthquakes may also shatter or crack windows in the apartment.
Steps that you can take beforehand include anchoring heavy or breakable items that may fall or be flung around, such as mirrors, TVs and heavy and tall furniture like bookshelves. These items should be anchored to the floor or the wall.
Breakable or heavy items that can’t be anchored should be kept on lower shelves and never stacked. You should also check your renters insurance policy to ensure you’re covered for earthquake damage.
During an earthquake, renters should move away from mirrors or windows that may shatter and cut them. Ideally, they should find a sturdy desk or table to seek shelter under. Once under shelter, covering the back of the head and neck with one’s arms can help prevent serious injury.
If there are no objects to duck under, crouch against a wall inside of the apartment, protecting the head and neck. Stay indoors and under shelter until the shaking stops completely. Avoid going down apartment stairs during the quake and avoid elevators.
Before a crisis strikes, create an evacuation plan for when leaving the home is advised. Everyone living in the home should know what the plan is and have practiced it.
When creating an evacuation plan, families should have locations in mind where they can stay. Often, evacuated people will stay in a public shelter, or one can make plans to stay at the home of a friend or family member if the need arises.
Hotels and motels are options, but if evacuating with a pet, be sure to find out where pet-friendly hotels are located. Because families must also have a way to contact each other, every family member should have a list of phone numbers that are kept in a wallet or purse, including the number of an out-of-town friend.
Putting together an emergency supply kit is another universal and necessary step when preparing for potential disasters. An effective supply kit contains items that are crucial to a person or family’s survival following a disaster like a first aid kit, batteries, a flashlight and a battery-powered radio.
The emergency kit should also include enough nonperishable food for at least three days and a gallon of water per person per day. Also, pack important documents and an extra supply of medications in a waterproof bag.
Tornado Safety Tips for Apartments
Hurricane Preparedness for Apartment Dwellers
Tornado Safety Checklist (PDF)
What to Do During a Tornado Event
Where Is the Safest Place in a High-Rise Apartment During a Tornado?
Get Ready for a Major Earthquake. What to Do Before and During a Big One
Tips for Tenants
Here’s What to Keep at Home in an Emergency Supply Kit
Emergency Preparedness: Make a Plan
Family, Health, and Safety Preparation
Putting Together Your Emergency Supply Kit
Disaster Preparedness Guide for Seniors and Caregivers
Emergency Preparedness Checklist (PDF)
Build Your Own Pet Emergency Kit
Disaster Preparedness: A Checklist (PDF)
These Are the Best Foods to Stockpile for an Emergency
Checklist for Disaster Preparedness (PDF)
Preparedness Guide for Disasters and Emergencies: Personal Preparedness (PDF)
Floods and Flash Floods
How to Prepare for Hurricane Season
Seven Tips for Hurricane Preparedness
Hurricane Preparedness Tip
The post Disaster Safety for the Apartment Renter appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.
The interest rate on your credit card is too high. And because you carry a balance each month, that rate is costing you serious dollars.
If you’re considering making a balance transfer to a Chase credit card, here’s everything you need to know before applying – including card options, restrictions, balance transfer fees, chances of approval and even potential pitfalls.
See related: Best balance transfer credit cards
Chase balance transfer guide
Chase balance transfer offers.
What you should know before applying.
How to improve your chances of approval.How to initiate a balance transfer.
How to make a balance transfer work.
Chase balance transfer offers
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Chase currently doesn’t offer any introductory APR options for consumers who want to transfer an existing balance (unless you are individually targeted). It does, however, offer a few intro APR promotions on new purchases, including:
Chase Freedom Unlimited
0% promotional period: First 15 months on new purchases after you open your account – but not on balance transfers.
Regular APR: 14.99% to 23.74% (variable).
Worth noting: 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022), 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases, 1.5% cash back on all purchases; no annual fee; $200-sign-up bonus if you spend $500 in first three months.
Chase Freedom Flex℠
0% promotional period: 15 months on new purchases, but not on balance transfers.
Regular APR: 14.99% to 23.74% (variable).
Worth noting: 5% cash back on rotating categories that you must activate each quarter (up to $1,500 per quarter); 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022); 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3% cash back on dining; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases; 1% cash back on general purchases; no annual fee; $200-sign-up bonus if Best no annual fee credit cards
What you should know about Chase balance transfers before applying
There are limits to balance transfers with Chase credit cards, according to the company.
Customers can’t transfer more than $15,000 in credit card debt within any 30-day period.
You can’t transfer your balance from an existing Chase card to another card issued by Chase.
Balance transfer requests take time. While Chase says that your debt will be transferred to your new card within a week, it can take up to 21 days.
You need to continue making payments on your existing card until you are certain that the balance transfer has closed.
Balance transfers won’t earn you rewards points or cash back, if the card you are transferring a balance to offers them.
There is no guarantee Chase will approve your balance transfer request. It might turn you down if you are past due on your existing card or if it believes you won’t be able to repayFICO credit score.
Revolving payments such as your mortgage loan, credit card bills, student loans and auto loan areZero to 750: What’s the fastest way to raise your credit score?
How to initiate a balance transfer to a Chase credit card
If you already own a Chase credit card:
Log into your account and select the “transfer a balance” option. This will bring up the offers available to you.
To start the process, provide some basic information about the card from which you want to transfer a balance.
If you are applying for a new Chase credit card:
Start a credit card application for a Chase balance transfer card.
make a plan to pay it off before any 0% offer expires.
Steps you can take to ensure you will able to pay off your debt include creating a budget, choosing a payoff strategy and stashing your card to avoid making any extra charges.
“Zero percent offers are an amazing deal if you plan to pay it off by the end of a promotional period,” said Aris Jerahian, AVP of card services at Anaheim, California-based Orange County’s Credit Union. “Unfortunately, most consumers focus on short-term goals, taking advantage of such deals while never paying off their balance in time.”
On Jan. 20, 2021, Chase announced a new card art option for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card featuring Whole Foods Market and added a limited-time sign-up bonus offer for those who prefer to shop at Whole Foods in-store.
Amazon has become a leader in grocery shopping during the pandemic, with consumers avoiding grocery stores due to health safety concerns â not to mention the convenience of shopping from a web browser. Amazon Prime members can enjoy speedy free delivery, as well as get access to online shopping at Whole Foods Market and special member deals when shopping in-store.
They can also count on extra savings if they carry the Amazon Prime Rewards card from Chase â or if theyâre looking to apply in the next few weeks.
Hereâs what you need to know.
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card
Our rating: 3.8Â out of 5 Score required: Good to excellent Type of card: Cash back Spending categories: Amazon, Whole Foods, restaurants, gas stations, drug stores
5% back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases
2% back on restaurant, gas station and drug store purchases
1% back on other purchases
$70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval or $100 statement credit after spending $100 at Whole Foods in first 2 months
No annual fee
Our take: While the Amazon Prime Rewards card offers excellent cash back on Amazon and Whole Food purchases, it might not be the best choice for customers who don’t currently have a Prime membership and aren’t looking to subscribe.
A new Whole Foods card design and limited-time offer
Chase introduced a new card design option for new Amazon Prime Rewards cardholders, featuring Whole Foods Market art. New cardmembers with an eligible Prime membership can choose the new design when they apply for the card. If youâre an existing cardholder and would like to switch to the new design option, you can call in to request a new card after Jan. 22, 2021.
If you frequently shop at Whole Foods in-store, the new limited-time introductory offer can also be exciting news for you. Through March 3, 2021, new Amazon Prime Rewards Visa cardholders can earn a $100 statement credit after spending $100 in Whole Foods Market stores in the first two months from account opening. Alternatively, they can still choose the standard $70 Amazon gift card offer as a sign-up bonus.
Considering the standard bonus is lower, the new temporary offer might be a better deal. On the other hand, if you avoid shopping in-store or normally use Amazon Fresh for buying groceries, the gift card might make more sense for you.
Should I start shopping at Whole Foods if I have an Amazon credit card?
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If you already shop at Whole Foods, the 5% back with the Amazon Prime Rewards Signature Visa and 10% off specially marked items is a good deal. The discounts, though, donât make Whole Foods cheaper than other grocery stores.
In fact, according to a study from 2019, Whole Foods remains the most expensive grocery store with its prices at 34% above Walmart, which was reported to have the lowest prices overall. If your goal is to save on groceries, Whole Foods is evidently not the best option â even if you carry the Amazon Prime card.
Other cards to consider
The Amazon Prime Card isnât the only option you should consider if you often shop on Amazon or at Whole Foods.
See related: Which is the best card to use on Amazon.com purchases?
For instance, with the Chase Amazon.com Rewards Visa card, you can get a $50 Amazon gift card upon approval and earn 3% on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% percent at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all else. If you donât have a Prime membership and arenât looking to subscribe, this is a good option, since the card doesnât require for a cardholder to be a member.
If you do have a membership and shop on Amazon a lot, the Amazon Prime card is a better deal. With 5% for purchases made at Whole Foods and on Amazon, 2% at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all else, this card is hard to beat for Amazon and Whole Foods lovers.
If youâre looking for a card to buy groceries, consider the Blue Cash PreferredÂ® Card from American Express that could save you more than with the Amazon Prime Visa at Whole Foods. Why? Blue Cash Preferred cardholders earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%).
See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping
Now you can stack your rewards at Whole Foods, earning cash back and the limited-time bonus with the Amazon Prime Card, and you can get extra savings from the loyalty program. Whether it makes sense to shop at Whole Foods, even with rewards cards and the loyalty program, is up to you.
Working from home has its perks. Thereâs the money saved from skipping the commute, and just think about all of that time you get back by avoiding crowded freeways or public transit during rush hour. As far as workplace attire goes, few employees would trade âwork-from-home casualâ for dress slacks.
But while working from home affords some new freedoms, it also creates new challenges. One of your biggest tasks is to create a productive, ergonomically correct workplace in your home without breaking the bank. If this sounds familiar, youâre probably asking yourself, âHow can I set up a home office on a budget?â
Whether youâve always worked from home as a freelancer or started during the pandemic, these expert tips will help you get started as you design your home office on a budget:
Strive for an ergonomically correct home office
Being home all day creates an unexpected obstacle: pain. Many workers find that transitioning from a well-equipped office to a makeshift setup at home leads to discomfort. Thatâs because many of them go from having a spacious desk, comfortable chair, and monitor and keyboard in their office building to working from a laptop in their living room.
If you suffer from neck pain or eye strain when working from home, you may be feeling the effects of poor ergonomics. Ergonomics, commonly known as the science of work, aims to optimize productivity and health in a workspace.
As a physical therapist with more than 25 years of experience, Karen Loesing, owner of The Ergonomic Expert, knows this issue all too well. Loesingâs company performs ergonomic assessments for businesses and home offices. Over the years, she has seen countless clients suffering from neck, back or other health issues due to poorly designed workspaces. But it doesnât have to be that way, Loesing says.
âHaving an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work.â
There are relatively easy ways to transform an ergonomic nightmare into a well-functioning home office on a budgetâeven if youâre stationed at the kitchen table, she says. And the investment is worth it.
âHaving an ergonomically correct workstation enhances productivity and generally overall happiness at work,â Loesing says. âFor those who are able to designate a certain space in their home where they can work without distractionsâmaybe even a window with a view and the flexibility to work at your own paceâit has been proven this makes for a happier employee.â
Who doesnât want to boost their health, productivity and happiness in one fell swoop?
Find the optimal location for your at-home workspace
When setting up a home office for remote work, location should be your first decision, says design consultant Linda Varone, author of âThe Smarter Home Office.â Depending on your living situation, there may be an obvious answer, such as that spare room youâve always thought could become an office space.
If you donât have a dedicated office, donât despair. While you design your home office on a budget, think creatively about where it can be.
Varone once visited a clientâs home to help reconfigure her workspace. The client was running a business from a table in the hallway. âAt the end of each workday, she had to pack everything up and store it in the closet in the guest room,â Varone says.
But as Varone learned, guests only stayed over two weeks a year, leaving the room empty the rest of the time. It hadnât occurred to the business owner, but turning the guest room into a home office for most of the year was the perfect solution.
âThere are some simple, simple ways that people can rethink their home office without a big investment and make that space really work for them,â Varone says.
In addition to using a guest room, a dining or living room can also function as a home office on a budget.
Establish the ideal setup for your workstation
Once youâve decided on the room, determine the location for your workstation, Varone says. As you plan your home office, consider placing your desk or table near a window, allowing for natural light and an occasional glimpse of nature. Donât face directly outside; instead, aim for a line of sight thatâs perpendicular to the window, Varone says. Thatâs because, even on an overcast day, youâd be looking into too much bright light if youâre facing the window.
âWhatâs happening is your eyes are adjusting back and forth between the bright sunlight that youâre facing and the darker light of your computer screen,â Varone says. âAnd that ends up being really fatiguing for the eye.â
If you live with others, the biggest challenge will be privacy. Try to clearly define the boundaries of your âofficeâ if you can, such as with an area rug, she says. Then ask your roommates or family members not to enter your space while youâre working, apart from an emergency.
If you use a multipurpose space, be sure to tidy everything up at the end of the day, Varone says. Taking the 10 minutes or so to clean up your âofficeâ will reduce clutter. Ultimately, a clutter-free space can reduce your stress and boost your productivity.
âThat also has a benefit of becoming a little ritual and helping you say, âAll right, my workday is over,ââ Varone says. ââNow I can focus on my personal life.ââ
Choose your furniture wisely
Now that youâve found the perfect location for your home office on a budget, focus on finding the perfect work surface. Maybe itâs a traditional desk. Or it could be your dining room table or kitchen counter.
If you do need to buy a desk or chair, donât feel like you need to spend a fortune. Try looking for a used office furniture store or liquidator in your area, Varone recommends. You could even try searching online marketplaces for a gently used model.
When planning a home office and considering your work surface, what matters most is the height.
The average desk is 29 inches high, Loesing says. This will likely accommodate someone whoâs 5â8â, she acknowledges, but for everyone else? It will take some adjusting to make it fit for them.
Thatâs where your chair comes in. Most people donât need a high-end office swivel chair to work comfortably. As long as you can adjust the height of your chair to fit you and your desk, youâll have a comfortable setup.
Itâs important to adjust the height of your chair to achieve a neutral position, Loesing says. If you donât have the instructions from the manufacturer on how to adjust your model, try searching for videos online, she adds.
One more chair takeaway from Loesing?
âIf you canât spend a dime, at least get as comfortable as you can where youâre sitting, and sit all the way back in your chair,â Loesing says. âWhen you donât sit so your back is against the backrest, youâre using your back muscles all day long instead of them being at rest.â
Adjust your furniture and equipment
As you continue planning a home office, youâll likely find that your computer is your most important piece of equipment. But it can also lead to neck strain. Whether itâs a laptop or an external monitor, Loesing says screen placement is key. In fact, she says itâs the single most important feature to addressâas well as the most commonly disregarded one.
While you plan your home office, Loesing recommends keeping the following ergonomic guidelines in mind to help avoid neck strain:
Align your monitor so your eyes are level with the screen. (Thatâs typically about 4â from the top of the monitor.)
Place your feet flat on the floor and your knees at about a 90-degree angle with the ground.
Place your arms at about a 90-degree angle from the writing surface so your shoulders are relaxed.
If you only have a laptop, and no monitor, you still have options for raising your screen to eye-level. âThere are budget-friendly laptop risers on the market,â Loesing says. âIf you donât want to spend any money, you can place books or reams of paper to bring the screen up to eye level.â
When setting up a home office for remote work and thinking about your arm placement, note that Varone is a strong advocate for an external keyboard. If youâre working at a desk that has a keyboard tray built into it, thatâs a great way to keep your arms at about a 90-degree angle, she says. If you donât have a built-in tray, she says you can improvise by placing your keyboard on an inexpensive laptop table situated directly under your desk.
While the exact adjustments will vary depending on your equipment, height and budget, the focus is on acquiring a neutral position or a position where thereâs no strain on anything, Loesing says.
âWith the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.â
Stand if it suits you
If youâre intrigued by the idea of a standing desk, youâre not alone. Standing desk sales have soared over the last decade, buoyed by reports of the dangers of too much sitting.
âStatic postures (e.g., sitting all day in front of a computer) present more fatigue than dynamic working,â Loesing says. âWith the addition of standing desks, which encourage movement, employees often find they have significantly more energy at the end of the day.â
You donât have to buy an official standing desk to reap the benefits when planning a home office. âThe least expensive way would be to take a laptop and place it up high on a built-in high counter using a compact wireless keyboard and mouse,â Loesing says.
Even if you donât have a standing deskâmakeshift or otherwiseâyou can still incorporate movement and circulation into your workday. Set a timer to remind you to stand up and stretch every 20 minutes, Loesing suggests.
For an even better boost, combine this with a popular guideline known as the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, give your eyes a break by looking out a window at something at least 20 feet away, and do so for at least 20 seconds.
Donât forget the ambience and accessories
Your desk, chair and computer are the major players when youâre setting up a home office for remote work. But there are a few additional items to consider, like lighting, plants and sound.
Your overhead light fixture likely isnât enough, as it will create shadows and can be too weak by the time it reaches your workspace, Varone says. She recommends investing in a table lamp that creates a wider spread of light in your area. Pick one with a translucent shade that will softly diffuse the light and make it easier on your eyes.
As youâre planning your home office, Varone also recommends incorporating a potted plant or flower into your workspace. Not only can it help purify the air and boost your mood, a natural element can contribute to a restful atmosphere.
Working from home means working with home noisesâespecially if youâre in an environment with roommates, a partner or little ones. To keep the noise down, consider noise-canceling headphones for a quieter workspace and clearer meetings. Other budget-friendly options? Try placing a towel under the door to block out noise from other rooms, Loesing says. Consider curtains instead of blinds, since theyâre better at blocking out sound. Even pillows or large cushions can help reduce noise, she adds.
After youâve taken care of the essentials and if you have the space and money, think about adding a reading chair to your home office. You can use this as a space to review documents or do some deep thinking, Varone says. It can be a welcome respite from your desk while keeping you in the office area, she adds.
One last tip? Add a personal touch, whether itâs a framed family photo or a souvenir from your travels. Itâs your home office, after all. Let your personality shine.
Set up a home office for remote work that allows you to thrive
Now that you know how to create a home office on a budget, youâre ready to make a space that works well for you. Whether youâre an experienced remote worker or a newbie, you can apply these expert tips to set up an office thatâs functional and keeps you motivated day in and day out.
Ready to break in your new home office? Keep that motivation going by learning how to increase your earning potential this year.
The post Planning a Home Office? Check Out These Budget-Friendly Tips appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, major credit card issuers are offering relief to their customers.
Even though many places around the country are open, the pandemic continues to impact the U.S. economy. Workers are still at risk of being laid off or facing reduced hours or pay.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation and we want our customers to know we are here to provide assistance should they need it,â Anand Selva, chief executive officer of Citiâs consumer bank, said in a statement in Spring 2020.
At the same time, scammers are now trying to take advantage of coronavirus concerns by sending out fake emails about the virus that are designed to steal consumersâ personal and financial information or to infect their computers with malware.
Financial strategies if you’re self-employed
How to manage your credit cards during the coronavirus outbreak
Coronavirus: What to do if youâre unemployed and have credit card debt
What to do if youâre struggling to pay your credit card bills
Many credit card issuers are allowing customers to opt into financial relief programs online. These programs are a convenient way to access short-term relief. But it could come with a long-term cost as many cardholders will continue to see interest accrue. With the average credit card interest rate sitting at 16.05%, cardholders might find more cost-effective relief through other options.
Here’s what issuers are currently offering:
Cardholders who are having difficulties can get assistance through American Express’s financial hardship program. Eligible cardholders have the option to enroll in a short-term payment plan, which provides relief for 12 months, or a long-term plan, which can provide relief for either 36 or 60 months.
Under both options, you will receive lower interest rates, plus waived late payment fees and annual fees. But you might not have access to certain card benefits and features.
If you enroll in the short-term plan, you might be able to continue putting new purchases on the card but with a reduced spending limit. If you are participating in the long-term plan, you will not be able to use the card.
Amex will report participating cardholders to the credit bureaus as current, assuming they comply with the program’s rules. But the program’s terms do offer some important caveats: Amex will inform the credit bureaus that you are enrolled in a payment assistance program (if you’re in the long-term plan). And under both plans, Amex will report that you have a lower credit limit.
While these factors do not have as much of an impact on your credit score as a delinquent account does, it could still signal to other lenders that you might be having some financial hardship.
Bank of America
Bank of America cardholders who have trouble paying credit card bills can request a credit card payment deferral by calling the number on the back of their card.
To qualify for payment assistance, cardholders must be carrying a balance, according to the website.
Bank of America sent an email to Preferred Rewards members in May 2020 stating that the company had temporarily suspended the annual program review process. Members whose assets dropped below the regular threshold to keep their status would continue to qualify for program benefits. It is unclear if Bank of America is still suspending this program.
Barclays urges credit card account holders to request payment relief online. As of May 4, 2020, the bank is granting payment relief for two statements, but interest will continue to accrue.
âWe understand that this is a time of uncertainty for many people, and we know that there may be instances where customers find themselves facing financial difficulties. Capital One is here to help and we encourage customers who may be impacted to reach out to discuss how we might be of assistance,â the bank said in a statement.
In a March 26, 2020 update, Chairman and CEO Rich Fairbank confirmed that they are offering waived fees and deferred payments on credit cards for some cardholders.
Because each customerâs situation is different, the bank encourages customers to contact it directly. To contact Capital One customer service about an existing account, call (800) 227-4825.
See related: How to clean your credit card
Previously, Chase Bank stated that customers will be able to “delay up to three payments on your personal or business credit card” if needed, with interest continuing to accrue. The website currently does not specify how many payments cardholders can defer.
It also stated that active duty military members who are responding to a disaster might have access to additional benefits. Servicemembers can call the bank for more information.
In a letter to shareholders, the company’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, also promised to not report late payments to the credit bureaus for “up-to-date clients.”
See related: Chase offering limited-time bonus on food delivery for some cardholders
Citi customers who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic might be eligible for assistance. Previously, the bank was waiving payments and late fees for two consecutive billing cycles. However, Citi has ended its pandemic assistance program.
“Due to a significant and steady decline in enrollments, our formal COVID-19 assistance program has concluded and we will focus on providing assistance options to those customers financially affected by COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. We continue to closely monitor the situation and will evaluate additional actions to support our customers and communities as needs arise,” a spokesperson for Citi said in an email.
During the bank’s pandemic assistance program, interest continued to accrue, but accounts that were current at the time of enrollment were not be reported as delinquent.
Discover will be extending relief to qualified customers who are experiencing financial difficulty caused by the spread of COVID-19.
“We encourage them to contact us by calling and are directing them to www.discover.com/coronavirus for phone numbers for each product line and other FAQs,” Discover said in a statement earlier this year. “We also can provide relief through our mobile text app, which connects a customer directly with an agent.”
Discover it Miles cardmembers can also put their miles towards their bill â including their minimum payment.
See related: What to do if you can’t pay your business credit card bill
Apple Card customers can enroll in an assistance program. Previously, cardholders could waive payments without accruing any interest. The website currently doesn’t specify if this is still the case.
Cardholders can defer payments for three billing cycles. Though interest will continue to accrue, enrolled cardholders will not receive late fees, and their accounts will be reported as current, as long as accounts were not delinquent at the time of enrollment.
Synchrony is extending relief to customers experiencing financial hardship. The company’s website previously stated that this could include payment relief for up to three statement cycles, while interest would continue to accrue. The website currently offers no specifics about what the issuer is prepared to offer.
Truist (formerly SunTrust and BB&T)
Previously, Truist offered payment relief assistance to customers with personal and business credit cards, among other products. As of April 14, it was willing to delay payments for up to 90 days. The website currently offers no specifics about what the issuer is prepared to offer.
Previously, impacted cardholders could defer monthly payments for two consecutive billing cycles. The company’s website currently does not specify what assistance cardholders can expect to receive.
See related: Coronavirus stimulus legislation doesnât suspend negative credit reporting
ultimate guide to coronavirus limited-time promotions for more offers designed to help cardholders maximize rewards amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Business credit cards
If you are a small-business owner and cash is not flowing and bills are piling up, the most important thing to do is contact your card issuer.
Some banks are also providing assistance in case you can’t pay your business credit card bill.
Another coronavirus complication: Scams
As consumers wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.
In a June 2020 public service announcement, the FBI warned that the increasing use of banking apps could open doors to exploitation.
“With city, state and local governments urging or mandating social distancing, Americans have become more willing to use mobile banking as an alternative to physically visiting branch locations. The FBI expects cyber actors to attempt to exploit new mobile banking customers using a variety of techniques, including app-based banking trojans and fake banking apps,” the PSA warns.
Scammers might also be capitalizing on health and economic uncertainties during this time. In one such scam, cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to contain updates about the coronavirus. But if a consumer clicks on the links, they are redirected to a website that steals their personal information, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
Identity theft in 2020: What you need to know about common techniques
The outbreak of a disease can upset daily life in many ways, and the ripple effects go beyond our physical health. Thankfully, many card issuers are offering relief. If you’re feeling financially vulnerable, contact your credit card issuer and find out what assistance is available. And while data security may seem like a secondary consideration, it’s still important to be vigilant when conducting business or seeking information about the coronavirus online.
Yoga studios and gyms, even fitness centers found in the average apartment complex, have been closed as a response to the spread of COVID-19. As a result, people are left needing to find alternative ways to stay active in order to meet their fitness goals. For people who prefer exercising with a group, navigating through this might be a bit tough as you are looking for ways to stay in shape while social distancing.
Social distancing while living in an apartment can be tricky. Especially when you are looking for ways to get outside and exercise. It is important to understand that at this time, social distancing is one of the best ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, this does not mean that you need to stay inside your apartment binge watching Netflix. Maintaining good health habits is important, especially right now. If you are at a loss of things that you can do to stay in shape, here are a few fun ideas that you can practice while still maintaining social distance.
Most areas have local trails nearby. If you have a car, driving to one of these areas can be a great way to get out of the house and enjoy some nature. You can hike the trails at a national or state park. In fact, many neighborhoods offer trails that you can run, bike, or walk on.
Take a few minutes to do a bit of research and chances are you will be surprised at how many public trails there are around your apartment complex for you to enjoy. The official website of your town is likely to offer information about different city trails that you can enjoy. You can also search your county and state websites for more information about what trails are currently open for you to enjoy.
Remember, when you are running on a trail, you should maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and others who might be out enjoying the trail. If necessary, slow your pace or go around the other person at a safe distance while you are out.
Run Through Neighborhoods
Taking a walk or a jog along the side of the road is a great way to get outside and exercise. With fewer cars on the roads these days, running along the side of the road is fairly safe. You should maintain distance and be careful, but there are plenty of neighborhoods around your apartment that you can take a run through. Your apartment complex likely has areas that you can run in as well. If necessary, you could just walk around the different buildings throughout your apartment complex. Choose different paths and learn more about the area that you live in, all while maintaining social distance.
Yoga in the Park
Yoga is a great form of exercise that can relieve stress. All you really need for this type of exercise is a yoga mat or a soft surface such as a grassy field. Of course, you can practice yoga from the comfort of your home, but if you are looking for a way to exercise outside, pack up your mat and head to an open area. There is a good chance that you will not have to go very far from your apartment to find an open area where you can practice yoga. There are parks that have open areas where you can spread out, enjoy the great outdoors, and strike some yoga poses.
Go Fly a Kite
If you are looking for something fun to do, that is also a form of exercise, why not build a kite and take it out to fly? Flying kites may seem like something that will not give you much exercise, but when you are sprinting to get it up in the air, you are definitely going to be winded afterwards. Kite flying is a great social distancing activity because you will be in an open field, away from others. Plus, who doesnât love the idea of getting a kite up in the air and watching it soar?
If you are used to group exercise, join a virtual accountability group. Create a step challenge among your friends. Social media provides a great way to stay connected and motivated. You could even put up flyers in your apartment complex for an exercise competition group. You can use a social media app to track goals and possibly even come up with prizes for the winners.
Read How to Exercise Outside While Social Distancing on Apartminty.
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a convenient way to store funds specifically for medical expenses. If you qualify for an HSA, you will get to enjoy a few tax advantages as well. While this might sound like an ideal setup, not everyone is eligible for a health savings account. To qualify for a health savings account, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). The details of these plans are revised every year by the Internal Service Revenue (IRS), which sets the bar for:
The minimum deductible a plan must have to be considered a HDHP.
The maximum amount that a customer who purchases a plan is able to spend out-of-pocket.
The benefits of a health savings account
Here are some of the key advantages of having a health savings account:
It covers a large variety of medical expenses: There are many different kinds of medical expenses that are eligible, such as medical, dental and mental health services.
Pretty much anyone can make contributions: Contributions to your health savings account donât have to be made by you or your spouse. Employers, relatives, friends or anyone who would like to contribute to your account can do so. There are limits, however. For example, in 2019, the limit for individuals was $3,500 and $7,000 for families.
Pre-tax contributions: Since contributions are generally made at your employer pre-taxes, they are not considered to be part of your gross income and are not federally taxed. This is usually the same case when it comes to state level taxes as well.
After-tax contributions are tax-deductible: Any contributions made after taxes are deductible from your gross income on your tax return. Doing so minimizes the amount you would owe on taxes for that year.
Tax-free withdrawals: You can withdrawal money from your account for approved health care costs without having to worry about federal taxes. Most states do not tax, either.
Annual rollover: Any unused HSA funds that are left over by the end of the year get rolled over to the following year.
Portability: Even if you change health insurance plans, employers, or retire, the money in your health savings account will continue to be available for qualifying health care expenses.
Having a health savings account is convenient: Most of the time, you will receive a debit card that is connected to your health savings account. This way, you can use your debit card to start paying for eligible expenses and prescription drugs on the spot.
The drawbacks to having a health savings account
While there are many advantages to having a health savings account, there are a few things to consider. For one, in order to qualify for an HSA, you must hold a high-deductible health insurance plan. The tax benefits might entice you to purposely sign up for insurance coverage under one of these health plans but think before doing this. Here are some of the disadvantages to having a health savings account:
The High-Deductible Health Plan: These types of health plans can end up being a lot more expensive in the long run, even with an HSA. If you have other options for health insurance that offer lower deductible, definitely consider those and donât only choose a High-Deductible plan so that you can open an HSA.
You need to stay on top of your spending: If you have an HSA, you need to be willing to hold yourself responsible for recordkeeping. Keep track of all of your receipts so that you can prove you spent your HSA funds on eligible expenses.
Taxes and penalties: Using money from your HSA on other expenses that do not qualify as eligible health care expenses could result in you owing taxes. If you do this before the age of 65, you will have to pay taxes with a 20% penalty tacked on. If you are 65 or older, you will be responsible for paying taxes, but the penalty gets waived.
Fees: Sometimes, health savings accounts will charge additional fees, either per month or per transaction. Check with your HSA institution for more information on extra fees.
How an HSA works
In many cases, if your employer offers high-deductible health plans, they probably offer health savings accounts as well. Talk to your employer to find out what they offer. If your employer doesnât offer HSAs, then you can sign up for a separate one through a different institution.
You get to decide how much you would like to contribute to your HSA annually, but keep in mind that you cannot exceed the HSA contribution limit. Once you are set up with an account, you will either receive a debit card or a series of checks that are linked to your HSA. Right away, you will be able to use the funds in your account for:
Other eligible health care expenses that your insurance does not cover.
Generally, you cannot use HSA funds to pay your insurance premiums.Â HSAs are not the same as flexible spending accounts, because HSAs rollover. Once you turn 65, you are no longer eligible to make contributions to your account, but you can still use the available funds for eligible out-of-pocket expenses. If you use the funds for non-eligible expenses, you will owe taxes on these amounts.
Another benefit of HSA that you may or may not have heard of is that you can invest the money in mutual funds and stocks. If this is something that you are interested in, seek advice from a financial advisor for more information.
What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.
A key financial decision people struggle to make is how to allocate savings for multiple financial goals. Do you save for several goals at the same time or fund them one-by-one in a series of steps? Basically, there are two ways to approach financial goal-setting:
Concurrently: Saving for two or more financial goals at the same time.
Sequentially: Saving for one financial goal at a time in a series of steps.
Each method has its pros and cons. Here’s how to decide which method is best for you.
You can focus intensely on one goal at a time and feel a sense of completion when each goal is achieved. It’s also simpler to set up and manage single-goal savings than plans for multiple goals. You only need to set up and manage one account.
Compound interest is not retroactive. If it takes up to a decade to get around to long-term savings goals (e.g., funding a retirement savings plan), that’s time that interest is not earned.
Compound interest is not delayed on savings for goals that come later in life. The earlier money is set aside, the longer it can grow. Based on the Rule of 72, you can double a sum of money in nine years with an 8 percent average return. The earliest years of savings toward long-term goals are the most powerful ones.
Funding multiple financial goals is more complex than single-tasking. Income needs to be earmarked separately for each goal and often placed in different accounts. In addition, it will probably take longer to complete any one goal because savings is being placed in multiple locations.
Working with Wise Bread to recruit respondents, I conducted a study of financial goal-setting decisions with four colleagues that was recently published in the Journal of Personal Finance. The target audience was young adults with 69 percent of the sample under age 45. Four key financial decisions were explored: financial goals, homeownership, retirement planning, and student loans.
Results indicated that many respondents were sequencing financial priorities, instead of funding them simultaneously, and delaying homeownership and retirement savings. Three-word phrases like “once I have…,", “after I [action],” and “as soon as…,” were noted frequently, indicating a hesitancy to fund certain financial goals until achieving others.
The top three financial goals reported by 1,538 respondents were saving for something, buying something, and reducing debt. About a third (32 percent) of the sample had outstanding student loan balances at the time of data collection and student loan debt had a major impact on respondents’ financial decisions. About three-quarters of the sample said loan debt affected both housing choices and retirement savings.
Based on the findings from the study mentioned above, here are five ways to make better financial decisions.
1. Consider concurrent financial planning
Rethink the practice of completing financial goals one at a time. Concurrent goal-setting will maximize the awesome power of compound interest and prevent the frequently-reported survey result of having the completion date for one goal determine the start date to save for others.
2. Increase positive financial actions
Do more of anything positive that you’re already doing to better your personal finances. For example, if you’re saving 3 percent of your income in a SEP-IRA (if self-employed) or 401(k) or 403(b) employer retirement savings plan, decide to increase savings to 4 percent or 5 percent.
3. Decrease negative financial habits
Decide to stop (or at least reduce) costly actions that are counterproductive to building financial security. Everyone has their own culprits. Key criteria for consideration are potential cost savings, health impacts, and personal enjoyment.
4. Save something for retirement
Almost 40 percent of the respondents were saving nothing for retirement, which is sobering. The actions that people take (or do not take) today affect their future selves. Any savings is better than no savings and even modest amounts like $100 a month add up over time.
5. Run some financial calculations
Use an online calculator to set financial goals and make plans to achieve them. Planning increases people’s sense of control over their finances and motivation to save. Useful tools are available from FINRA and Practical Money Skills.
What’s the best way to save money for financial goals? It depends. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re taking positive action. Weigh the pros and cons of concurrent and sequential goal-setting strategies and personal preferences, and follow a regular savings strategy that works for you. Every small step matters!
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This article is from Barbara OâNeill of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:
How to Manage Your Money â No Budgeting Required
A quick Google search of âfinancial literacyâ will yield thousands of results, listing an infinite amount of doâs and donâts that should (and shouldnât) be followed to guide you along on your financial journey.
However, when you think of financial empowerment â what comes to mind? As defined by Merriam-Webster, empowerment is âthe act or action of empowering someone or something: the granting of the power, right, or authority to perform various acts or duties.â No matter what your current sentiments are related to your finances, we will explore three key areas to not only embrace; but to help you prepare for a strong financial future.
Now more than ever, we all have a laser-sharp focus on our money and where itâs being spent. The pandemic has generated a hypersensitivity to how we treat our finances while also determining what essential expenses look like and where they fit into our budget.
Before life as we knew it to be shifted, many of us donât have to look too far back to remember a time where we didnât check our accounts as often, our savings plan would fluctuate month-over-month or our emergency fund was used to bail us out of some impulsive spending.
To make sure those days are forever of the past, make it a habit to take inventory and audit all of your accounts. Take at least 15 – 30 minutes to review over any transactions and deposits across all active accounts. Not only does this help improve your self-accountability, but you are also able to make any disputes if anything appears incorrect and resolve quickly.
Another small but impactful tip is to acknowledge your financial health. What top three areas will be your main point of focus? If this is something you donât know offhand, review your transactions from the last three months and categorize them. How much of your money went to impulsive buys or things that could have been purchased at a later date? Are you seeing an influx in overhead expenses or credit card payments? Are there any spending patterns you can explicitly see? Allow this exercise to serve as an eye-opening experience.
In order to determine where you want to be, you must first truthfully acknowledge where you are. This sets the blueprint and overall expectations with your personal finance journey. Knowing where you are may not feel pleasant but avoidance will lead to bigger consequences.
Even though we donât like to admit it, thereâs always room for improvement and our finances are no exception. The first thing that guarantees mastery is actually following the budget thatâs created. This serves as a guardrail â itâs used to keep us on track so we can greet our financial destination with open and inviting arms.
Once thatâs in motion, explore ways to enhance your financial experience. Begin by automating recurring expenses, such as cellphone service or utility bills. Thatâs why itâs so important to be as honest and accurate as possible when setting a budget. Nothing should come to you as a surprise outside of any emergencies. When you trust yourself and the financial work youâve put in, your finances have no choice but to follow suit.
If you havenât already (or need to get back on track), work to beef up your emergency fund and savings account. Emergency expenses have a tendency to appear out of nowhere, so you want to dedicate a set dollar amount or a percentage every pay period. Setting up an automatic transfer to these accounts establish a routine while putting your mind at ease in the process.
Is there a hobby or skill youâd like to put to use and monetize? No matter how grandiose or small, this can definitely expedite achieving your financial goals. The money earned from a passion project can go toward savings, paying off debt or simply getting back to a place of comfort financially. Vacation funds or prepping for large purchases such as a car or home can also fall within this category. If you want to seek the assistance of a professional, search for financial advisors or coaches that could help you with reaching your goals. Preparation is key and your future depends on it!
The foundation has been laid and youâve been committed to crushing your financial goals. The budget and savings goals are in motion; so whatâs next? Itâs time to celebrate! Walk into your financial future with your best foot forward. When times seem bleak, remind yourself of your goals early and often.
Reinforcement such as daily reminders on your phone, having goals posted somewhere in your home you can see daily or reciting positive financial affirmations will serve as a second wind when you want to throw in the towel. Be sure to celebrate wins along the way such as debt payoff, reduction or hitting a new savings goal. Never been able to invest before and now you have the additional income to get in the game? Celebrate that!
The best way to generate excitement is to rally your family and get them involved. Create family challenges to get your children excited about saving funds and reallocating money. Come up with creative ways you all can commemorate knocking out a goal by ordering from your favorite restaurant or saving for a family staycation.
In order to walk in confidence, you have to build up the courage to begin no matter where you are or how many times youâve had to start over. Each step counts â each successful budget, savings goal and consistent reduction of overall expenses. Be sure to keep in mind, financial freedom looks different for everyone and has the ability to pivot over time. While some may want to vacation throughout the year, save for their childrenâs college fund or wipe debt out completely, all are significant and take sacrifice. What is the key to achieving such a pinnacle level of confidence? Time.
Be kind to yourself and understand mistakes should never be equated to failures. Your commitment to this financial journey will always be rewarded.
The post The ABCs of Financial Empowerment appeared first on MintLife Blog.
When I first connected with Julia and John, the Queens, NY couple was expecting their first child and grappling with some debt, a lack of savings and income prior to the baby’s arrival. The couple was basically living paycheck to paycheck and in need of some advice to break through that cycle.
We reconnected this month to see how they’ve been doing. Julia is now nearing the end of her third trimester. The baby is due to arrive in two months.
I was hoping that with a baby on the way the couple would have found some ways to chisel away their debt or bulk up savings. Unfortunately, fie months later, they’re more or less still in the same money boat.
But they did act upon a couple of my tips and are benefiting from the goodness of New York and their parents, which has their futures looking brighter.
First, John, who lacks a college degree and was struggling to find full-time work, is going back to school. Not to a college or university, but to a 9-month software boot camp in New York that’s going to give him the skills and network to become a software developer. His potential earnings in the first year in the market could be as much as $75,000 (based on some people I know who’ve gone through similar programs in New York.)
The program will be about $15,000, a fraction of what it would cost to earn a bachelor’s degree. John’s parents have agreed to loan him the money. The couple’s decided to place that $15,000 family loan in savings and, instead, take out a small student loan to pay for John’s school. I agree with that strategy, given that their family is about to increase in size and having some cash on hand will be very important.
Once John completes school and finds work, I’d recommend the couple prioritize the credit card debt by paying at least double the minimums each month. Be most aggressive with the highest interest credit card debt first. Their student loan will likely have a smaller interest rate and can be paid over a 10-year period, making the monthly minimums relatively manageable. Automate those payments as soon as possible and benefit from a 0.25% interest rate reduction when they do.
While they’re taking on more debt, I’m okay with it. Investing in John’s education is one of the best ways this couple can get ahead and better secure their finances in the future – so long as they commit to earning more and paying it down.
Ahead of that program starting, John’s also taken on a side hustle (per my advice). He’s been working a few shifts here and there at Julia’s company, working with special needs patients as a social aide, taking them to community and outdoor events.
Some other good news that’s developed since we last spoke is that New York State has enhanced its Family and Medical Leave Act by implementing Paid Family Leave. In the past, certain employers were only required to provide workers with their jobs back after taking a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks. Now, qualifying private employers must provide paid time off and a continuation of health insurance for 8 weeks in 2018.
This came as a surprise bonus for Julia, who was preparing for zero paid time off from her employer.
It would be my recommendation to use part or all of that extra money to pay down their high-interest credit card debt.
Once Julia returns to work after her maternity leave, her mother-in-law will be the go-to caretaker during the day, another huge help.
They’re fortunate to have free childcare from a trusted, loved one. With that very big expense covered and John’s schooling about to start, I feel confident that the couple’s future is a financially bright one.
The post Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright appeared first on MintLife Blog.