Tips for purchasing the best wine when using your Amex Offer

At the virtual TPG office, there’s been a lot of discussion about wine recently — and not just because the first two weeks of the year have been, well, a lot. No, the real reason we’re talking about wine every morning is the spate of credit card offers for wine delivery. For more TPG news …

Source: thepointsguy.com

Amex launching limited-time offers on co-branded travel cards

The COVID-19 pandemic has put millions of travel plans on hold for many months. As a result, travel credit card issuers have had to adjust their products to make sure they still offer plenty of value to cardholders, even while the opportunities to earn or spend travel rewards are limited.

To make its co-branded travel credit cards valuable to customers even during the pandemic, American Express is launching new limited-time offers for eligible Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy cardmembers. With these offers, cardholders can earn up to $220 in statement credits for non-travel spending, including dining for customers with consumer credit cards and wireless telephone services for business credit cardholders.

“We want to support how our customers are living their lives and running their businesses today, which is why we focused our statement credits on restaurants and wireless,” said Eva Reda, executive vice president and general manager of Global Consumer Lending & Cobrand at American Express. “We are also giving our Delta Card Members more ways to build up their bank of miles and earn higher status now for when they feel they are ready to travel again.”

Earn up to $220 in statement credits for dining

If you had a consumer Delta SkyMiles, Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy credit card as of Jan. 1, 2021, you can enroll via Amex Offers to earn statement credits for dining out or take out. (Note, Amex Offers are targeted, so you might not see every promotion listed below.)

Here are the offers available to eligible Delta SkyMiles cardmembers:

  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $165 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express cardholders can receive $15 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Those with Hilton Honors American Express cards can also get up to $220 in statement credits:

  • Up to $55 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Card members can receive $5 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® cardholders can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card members can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Eligible Marriott Bonvoy cardmembers can take advantage of the following Amex Offers:

  • Up to $110 in dining statement credits: Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card members can receive $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in dining statement credits: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express cardholders can receive $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

Earn up to $220 in statement credits on wireless telephone services

If you carry an eligible co-branded business card from Amex, you can also enroll to earn up to $220 in statement credits through Dec. 31, 2021.

These offers are available for Delta SkyMiles cardholders:

  • Up to $110 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card members can earn up to $10 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $165 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express cardholders can earn up to $15 back per month (up to 11 times).
  • Up to $220 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card members can earn up to $20 back per month (up to 11 times).

With the “Score More on Wireless” offer, Hilton Honors American Express Business cardholders can receive up to $110 in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services – up to $10 back per month (up to 11 times).

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card members can earn up to $165 per month in statement credits for U.S. wireless telephone services – up to $15 back per month (up to 11 times).

More offers to earn extra points or miles

Besides earning statement credits, eligible cardholders now have more opportunities to get rewards on purchases. For example, Delta SkyMiles cardmembers can earn up to 3 additional miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases through Dec. 31, 2021 – that’s up to 5 miles per dollar in total.

For more offers, check our guide to limited-time credit card offers and promotions during COVID or log in to your Amex account to see Amex Offers available to you.

Source: creditcards.com

4 Practical Ways to Leave College Debt-Free

A college student looks down at her notebook and smiles because she'll leave college debt-free.

The following is a guest post by Lisa Bigelow, a content writer for Bold.

When it comes to paying for college, the anxiety about how to leave college debt-free starts early. And for thousands of grads who are buckling under the weight of monthly student loan payments that can cost as much as a mortgage, that worry can last for as long as 25 years.

According to EducationData.org and The College Board, the cost of a private school undergraduate education can exceed $200,000 over four years. Think you can avoid a $100k+ price tag by staying in-state? Think again—many public flagships can cost over $100,000 for residents seeking an undergraduate degree, including room and board. And with financial aid calculators returning eye-poppingly low awards, you’d better not get a second topping on your pizza.

In fact, you’d better hope that you can graduate on time.

The good news is that you can maintain financial health and get a great education at the same time. You won’t have to enroll as a full-time student and work 40 hours a week, either—each of the methods suggested are attainable for anyone who makes it a priority to leave college debt-free.

Here are four practical ways you can leave college debt-free (and still get that second pizza topping).

1. Cut the upfront sticker price

Don’t visit schools until you are certain you can afford them. Instead, prioritize the cost of attendance and how much you can afford to pay. Staying in-state is one easy way to do this. But if you have wanderlust and want to explore colleges outside state lines, an often-overlooked method of cutting the upfront cost is the regional tuition discount. Many US states participate in some form of tuition reciprocity or exchange programs. You can explore the full list of options at the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators website.

Let’s explore how this works. As a resident of a New England state, for example, you can study at another New England state’s public university at a greatly reduced cost if your home state’s public schools don’t offer the degree you want. So, for example, if you live in Maine but want to go to film school, you can attend the University of Rhode Island and major in film using the regional tuition discount.

Some universities offer different types of regional discounts and scholarships that appear somewhat arbitrary. The University of Louisville (in Kentucky) includes Connecticut in its regional scholars program. And at the University of Nebraska, out-of-state admitted applicants are eligible for several thousand dollars in renewable scholarship money if they meet modest academic standards.

If you already have your heart set on an expensive school and you’re not likely to qualify for reciprocity, financial help, or merit aid, live at home and complete your first two years at your local community college.

Here’s another fun fact: in some places, graduating from community college with a minimum GPA gives you automatic acceptance to the state flagship university.

2. Leverage dual enrollment and “testing out”

When you enroll in a four-year college it’s pretty likely that you’ll spend the first two years completing general education requirements and taking electives. Why not further reduce the cost of your education by completing some of those credits at your local community college, or by testing out?

Community college per-credit tuition is usually much cheaper than at four-year colleges, so take advantage of the lower rate in high school and over the summer after you’re enrolled in your four-year college.

But beware: you’ll probably need at least a C to transfer the credits, so read your institution’s rules first. Also, plan to take general education and low-level elective classes, because you’ll want to take courses in your major at your four-year school.

If you’ve been given the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses, study hard for your year-end exams. Many colleges will accept a score of 3 or higher for credit, although some require at least a 4 (and others none at all). Take four or five AP classes in high school, score well on the exams, and guess what? You’ve just saved yourself a semester of tuition.

3. Take advantage of financial aid opportunities

After taking steps one and two, you probably have a good idea of what the leftover expense will be if you want to leave college debt-free. Your next job is to figure out how to cut that total even more by using financial aid. There are four types to consider.

The first is called need-based aid. This is what you’ll apply for when you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Known as the FAFSA, this is where you’ll enter detailed financial information, and you’ll need at least an hour the first time you complete this form. Hint: apply for aid as soon as the form opens in the fall. It is not a bottomless pot of money.

There is also medical-based financial aid. If you have a condition that could make employment difficult after graduating from college, you may be eligible, and qualifying is separate and apart from financial need and academic considerations.

The third type of aid relates to merit and is offered directly by colleges. Some schools automatically consider all accepted applicants for merit scholarships, which could relate to academics or community service or, in the case of recruited athletes, athletics. At other universities, you’ll need to submit a separate scholarship application after you’ve been admitted. Some merit awards are renewable for four years and others are only for one year.

If you didn’t get need-based or merit-based aid then you still may qualify for a private scholarship. Some require essays, some don’t, and some are offered by local community organizations such as rotary clubs, women’s organizations, and the like. Don’t turn your nose up at small-dollar awards, either, because they add up quickly and can cover budget-busting expenses such as travel and books.

4. Find easy money

Small-dollar awards really add up when you make finding easy money a priority. Consider using the following resources to help leave college debt-free:

  • Returns from micro-investing apps like Acorns
  • Tax return refunds
  • Browser add-ons that give you cashback for shopping online
  • Rewards credit cards (apply for a travel rewards credit card if you’re studying out of state)
  • Asking for money at the holidays and on your birthday
  • Working part-time by capitalizing on a special talent, such as tutoring, photography, or freelance writing

Leave College Debt-Free

Finally, if you have to take out a student loan, you may be able to have it forgiven if you agree to serve your community after graduation. The Peace Corps is one such way to serve, but if you have a specialized degree such as nursing, you can work in an underserved community and reap the rewards of loan forgiveness.


Lisa Bigelow writes for Bold and is an award-winning content creator, personal finance expert, and mom of three fantastic almost-adults. In addition to Credit.com, Lisa has contributed to The Tokenist, OnEntrepreneur, College Money Tips, Finovate, Finance Buzz, Life and Money by Citi, MagnifyMoney, Well + Good, Smarter With Gartner, and Popular Science. She lives with her family in Connecticut.

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The post 4 Practical Ways to Leave College Debt-Free appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You.

Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You

It wasn’t until a few months after my husband and I got married that I decided to check both our credit scores. While my husband’s credit score wasn’t horrible, it certainly didn’t qualify as “excellent.” This got me thinking about how newlyweds’ financial histories can affect both spouses’ finances moving forward, and how critical it is to acknowledge this reality—ideally before getting hitched.

Why It’s Important to Have a Good Credit Score

Manisha Thakor cuts right to the chase in her book On My Own Two Feet: “Your credit score is essentially your financial reputation in numeric form.”

Aiming for an excellent credit score—generally defined as 750 or more—is a worthy goal, owing to the range of ways in which it can save you money. Credit scores are critical when applying for loans—for instance, car loans and mortgages. In addition, many employers consider prospective employees’ credit scores during the hiring process.

A high credit score means you can access lower interest rates when borrowing, because creditors will view you as reliable. The perceived risk that you’ll default on your loan is lower compared to those with poor credit scores. Lower interest rates, especially on large amounts borrowed over significant timeframes, can save you thousands and thousands of dollars!

A poor credit score can indirectly hurt your financial efforts as well; consider the fact that when you’re paying over the odds in debt repayments, you’re committing fewer dollars to saving and retirement planning.

photo credit: LendingMemo via photopin cc

Till Debt Do Us Part

Marriage makes you one combined financial unit.

However, that doesn’t mean your credit scores are merged; your credit history continues to be maintained on an individual basis. One spouse’s poor credit cannot directly damage the individual score of the other spouse.

That being said, if you apply for a loan as a married couple, creditors look at both your credit scores to determine your eligibility and terms. So, if one of you has the credit of an angel whereas the other’s credit history is limited or even littered with missed payments and liens, you may find your application is denied.

But, this is not just about loan applications—poor credit can belie more than just a few bad credit card habits. Other financial follies, like paying taxes late, not focusing on saving, and day-to-day overspending, could be lurking in the closet.

What Do You Do After You’ve Said I Do?

While bad credit isn’t good news, it’s not necessarily a reason not to get married. And, it’s not necessarily the precursor to divorce! It is, however, an alarm signaling that it is time to get clear on your joint financial situation and start communicating. Make sure you do this respectfully and compassionately to minimize blame and financial stress. (If you’re the type of person who’d like to know this information from prospective partners before things get serious, there are now dating sites catering just to you.)

Once you’ve identified that one of you has less-than-optimal credit, it’s time to take action. Here are four top tips for taking immediate action:

1. Check your credit report for mistakes: Errors are, unfortunately, pretty common and can be really detrimental. Check your report at least once per year.

2. Make payments on time: Yes, this is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said! Mary Beth Storjohann of Workable Wealth says, “35% of your credit score is based on how you pay your bills (making this the biggest determining factor for your score)! Are you often late of missing payments? The impact of just one 90-day late payment goes way beyond the three months you took to pay, so set up automatic bill payments.”

3. Lower your debt-to-credit ratio: This is how much debt you have as a proportion of your overall credit limits. 30% of your credit score is based on the amount of money you owe versus the amount of credit available to you. The higher the amount of credit you’re utilizing, the more negative the impact on your score. Keep the debt level as low as possible (30% of your limits, or less).

4. Pay down your debt faster: Make more than the minimum payments wherever possible by utilizing the snowball method or targeting the balance with the highest interest rate to pay down first.

photo credit: natloans via photopin cc

Alongside these tips, it’s super important to remember that improving your credit score won’t happen overnight. The length of time it takes for your score to improve is directly related to reasons for the drop. It can take anywhere from a few months to several years for your credit report to reflect the positive changes you’re making. As Mary Beth notes, “The most important thing is to be proactive in clearing up any issues.” In addition, two of the criteria factored into your score are the length of your overall credit history and the average age of your accounts.

So, don’t be discouraged—be patient and give it time.

And, Finally, Some Tips on What Not to Do!

There are always two sides to every coin so, while you’re following the tips above, make sure that you’re not unwittingly hurting your score and negating your good work.

Be mindful of the following ways that you could be hurting your credit score:

1. Opening too many new accounts: This comes back to the point that the average age of your accounts is a key factor. Opening lots of new accounts reduces that average.

2. Closing too many old accounts: Older accounts indicate that you have managed payments for a long time and increase the average age of your accounts. When you close credit card accounts, this also decreases the amount of credit available to you, which can reflect negatively if you have other accounts that are still carrying high balances (it essentially increases your debt to credit ratio).

3. Signing up for lots of retail incentive programs: Every time you apply for credit, the company issuing the credit will request information about you from the credit bureaus. Too many of these requests can reduce your score.

4. Over-utilizing your credit. Mary Beth advises, “If you’re depending on your credit cards to fund your daily expenses and lifestyle needs, but aren’t able to pay them off in full at the end of each month, something needs to change. Start tracking your spending and get a handle on your expenses.”

In summary, start taking positive steps, be aware of actions that can hurt your credit, and focus on building solid financial foundations for the future.

This post was written by Erika Torres of GoGirl Finance. GoGirl Finance is a fast-growing community of women seeking and providing financial wisdom across money management, lifestyle, family and career. For more finance tips, follow GoGirl Finance on Twitter @GoGirlFinance

The post Spouse Has Bad Credit? How It Affects You. appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Shaquille O’Neal Recruits a Buyer for a Luxury $1.85M Spread in SoCal

Shaq sells in SoCalrealtor.com, Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Rumor had it that the NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal was dabbling in the art of home flipping, when he put his luxurious home in a gated equestrian community in Bell Canyon, CA, on the market for $2.5 million in late 2019.

The big man purchased the place in February 2018 for $1,815,000, and owned the home for only a little more than a year before he decided to sell.

However, if Shaq harbors dreams of an HGTV spinoff show, he’ll have to improve his return on investment. He recently let the home go for $1.85 million.

The five-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom, traditional-style home is on a fenced and gated acre lot, ideal for an owner who craves privacy.

Shaquille O’Neal’s SoCal spread

realtor.com

Overhead view

realtor.com

O’Neal perked up the 5,217-square-foot home with new carpeting, fresh paint, customized closets, and improved landscaping. The home was originally built in 1990, and its HVAC system, garage door, and some of the plumbing were also updated.

Living room
Living room

realtor.com

There’s plenty of proof of the property’s provenance. O’Neal’s images, trophies, and mementos greet visitors the second they set foot in the grand black-and-white, two-story formal entry, with a large staircase and circular gallery.

Grand entry hall

realtor.com

The home has a number of highlights: a wide-open floor plan, beamed ceilings, and hillside views. The kitchen, however, is the true showstopper, according to the listing agent, Emil Hartoonian of The Agency.

“Buyers loved the kitchen and its brightness. They also loved the open living space, with no shortage of natural light and flow,” he says.

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Watch: NBA’s Blake Griffin Nets Another Home In Los Angeles

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The kitchen has marble counters, a large center island, built-in stainless steel appliances, and designer cabinetry.

Kitchen

Other luxe features in the residence include a wine closet and wet bar in the great room, a media room with a convenient kitchenette, a screening room, and a spacious office with splendid views.

Home office

realtor.com

Plush screening room

realtor.com

The luxury spills into the outdoor spaces as well. Out back, there’s a rock-rimmed heated pool and spa, a fire pit, multiple seating areas, and manicured lawns.

Pool and spa

“We presented this property in the light it deserved, and helped buyers see the true value of a premier updated property behind guard-gates,” Hartoonian says.

He co-listed the property with Nicholas Siegfried, also of The Agency. Gary Keshishyan Pinnacle Properties represented the buyers.

But wait—there’s more. O’Neal’s sale in Southern California isn’t his only recent real estate success.

The famous “Shaq-apulco” in Windermere, FL, which has been on and off the market at varying prices over the past couple of years, appears to have found a buyer.

Shaquille O’Neal’s Florida estate

realtor.com

O’Neal first put the massive estate on the market in 2018, for $28 million. It was most recently listed at $16.5 million, and a sale is now pending on the 4-acre waterfront property, with its 31,000-square-foot mansion.

O’Neal, 48, is reportedly spending more time in Atlanta with his NBA on TNT gig. The Hall of Famer won four NBA titles during his 19-year NBA career.

The post Shaquille O’Neal Recruits a Buyer for a Luxury $1.85M Spread in SoCal appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

New to Market: Matt Damon’s Zen Los Angeles Home Asks $21 Million

As part of his plan of leaving Los Angeles and moving his family to the Big Apple, Matt Damon has now listed his Pacific Palisades home for sale. And he’s hoping to cash in big from the sale, asking $21 million for the Zen-inspired contemporary home set in one of LA’s most desirable neighborhoods.

Recently listed with Eric Haskell, an agent with celebrity real estate brokerage The Agency, Matt Damon’s house is an architectural masterpiece with 7 bedrooms, 10 baths, tons of distinct design features and some pretty extraordinary amenities. The Academy Award-winning actor will be trading all this for a 6,000-square-foot penthouse in Brooklyn, New York, having broken records last year by paying $16.745 million for the top floor unit of a famous former hotel, The Standish.

inside matt damon's beautiful house in los angeles
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

An architectural gem with striking features & Instagram-worthy interiors

Designed by award-winning architect Grant Kirkpatrick, founding partner of leading-edge design studio KAA Design Group, Matt Damon’s house is an extraordinary contemporary home that showcases masterful craftmanship throughout its 13,508-square-foot interiors.

With a modern-yet-timeless design, the house is anchored by a breathtaking atrium with 35-foot mahogany vaulted ceilings. The interiors are bathed in natural light and mix warm wood elements with natural stone, giving the whole space an inviting, relaxing vibe. Other striking features that deserve a shout-out: clerestory windows and glass walls that fuse the indoors with the outdoor areas.

two-story-atrium-with-vaulted-ceilings-in-matt-damons-house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
inside matt damon's house, living room
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
inside matt damon's house, living room and dining room
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

The family room opens to the magnificent chef’s kitchen with custom mahogany cabinetry, Bluestone countertops and stainless steel Viking, Wolf and Miele appliances. The kitchen then opens to the expansive backyard retreat (but more on that in a minute).

All in all, Matt Damon’s soon-to-be former Los Angeles abode packs 7 bedrooms and 10 baths across 13,508 square feet of space. The primary suite comes with its own private terrace, dual dressing rooms, massage room and a spa-style bath with soaking tub and expansive shower. Pretty much every room offers leafy property and treetop views, adding an extra note of serenity to this wonderfully Zen-inspired home.

kitchen in Matt Damon's house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million.
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
Inside Matt Damon's house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million.
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
primary suite in matt damon's los angeles house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
massage room in matt damon's house
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams
beautiful bedroom in matt damon's house in Los Angeles
Inside Matt Damon’s house in Los Angeles, now on the market for $21 million. Image credit: Alexis Adams

Amenities galore and a wonderful backyard retreat

Most celebrity homes tend to outdo themselves when it comes to amenities and bonus rooms and Matt Damon’s house is no exception. Interior amenities include a game room, bar, office, gym, plush media room, staff quarters and wine storage and tasting room. And that’s just what you’ll find inside the house.

Outside, the modern home has quite a few amenities that invite calm and relaxation (perfectly in tune with the rest of the house), including an expansive pool, spa, a cascading waterfall, koi pond and Hawaiian-inspired Lanai with a covered lounge and alfresco dining terrace. To appeal to the little ones — Damon is a father of four — there’s also a nice children’s play area.

Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon's Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades.
Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams
outdoor lounge and alfresco dining area in matt damon's $21 million house
Pool and outdoor area of Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams
kids playground in matt damon's house
Playground outside Matt Damon’s Los Angeles home in Pacific Palisades. Image credit: Alexis Adams

Matt Damon’s next home is vastly different from his Los Angeles digs

The Academy Award-winning actor, who is starring in the highly anticipated Ridley Scott-directed The Last Duel (to be released this year), will soon be leaving Los Angeles behind. The move has long been planned, with Damon and wife Luciana Bozán Barroso having purchased a Brooklyn Heights penthouse two years ago for a record-breaking price.

The couple paid $16.745 million for a 6-bedroom, 6,201-square-foot penthouse at The Standish — a historically significant converted building that was originally built in 1903 as a Beaux Arts hotel. At the time, Damon’s purchase set a new record for the borough, making him the owner of the most expensive property ever sold in Brooklyn.

Despite the fact that the penthouse consists of several units merged for extra space, the actor will be downsizing considerably. And the loss in square footage is matched by a significant downgrade in outdoor space — though it’s worth noting that Matt Damon’s new home does have an expansive terrace, a rarity for New York City. There’s no Zen backyard pool though, so we’re pretty sure the Good Will Hunting actor will, at times, miss his Pacific Palisades retreat.

More beautiful celebrity homes

Check Out this Beautiful House the Hemsworth Brothers Just Sold in Malibu
Wayne Gretzky is Selling his $22.9M California Home Designed by ‘The Megamansion King’
Morgan Brown Re-Lists Stunning West Hollywood Home Amid Split from Actor Gerard Butler
Chrissy Teigen & John Legend Buy $17.5M Beverly Hills Mansion

The post New to Market: Matt Damon’s Zen Los Angeles Home Asks $21 Million appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Flex℠, or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®? The card names sound the same, and at a glance the rewards are similar.

Not so fast: Though the cards have a lot in common, there are a few key differences to keep in mind when deciding which is the best fit for you.

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited offer hefty sign-up bonuses, along with bonus cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, as well as travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. The difference is their rewards structures: The Freedom Flex card offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories, while the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a flat-rate 1.5% cash back on everything.

Read on to get a rundown on the pros and cons of each card, as well as which card is best suited for you, based on your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Flex versus Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Flex
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rewards rate
  • 5% rotating quarterly categories (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%)
  • 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 other purchases
  • 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 other purchases
Sign-up bonus $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
  • $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Annual fee $0 $0
Estimated yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend, including sign-up bonus) $532 $405
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • High rewards rate on both specific categories year-round and on rotating categories
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
  • No annual fee
  • High general rewards rate
  • Large sign-up bonus
  • Can transfer rewards to other Chase cards
Cons
  • Requires some maintenance
  • Can be difficult to max out rotating categories (may not always align with spending)
  • Low cash back rate on general purchases
  • Not the highest rate available on general purchases
Who should get this card?
  • Rewards maximizers
  • People who want to collect Ultimate Rewards points
  • People who like cash back variety
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee
  • People who want to keep it simple
  • People who want to earn bonus cash back in both specific categories and general purchases
  • People who want to earn Ultimate Rewards points without paying an annual fee

Chase Freedom Flex overview

The Chase Freedom Flex card offers a combination of year-round and quarterly-rotating bonus cash back categories. Each quarter, you can enroll in a new bonus category from the Chase cash back calendar and earn 5% back on the first $1,500 you spend in that category (then 1% back after you reach the $1,500 threshold). Throughout the year, you’ll also get 5% back on all travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.

Upsides: The opportunity to earn bonus cash back in select categories year-round and in a variety of categories each quarter.

Downsides: The complex rewards program. To get the most out of the card, cardholders must track their spending, since the 5% rate only applies to certain categories that rotate frequently and is limited to $1,500 per quarter.

Furthermore, cardholders must log in to their Chase account and activate their rewards category by the deadline each quarter to earn the 5% rate. For example, to earn 5% cash back during the first quarter of 2021 (on select streaming services, phone, cable and internet services and at wholesale clubs), you must activate the category by March 14, 2021.

Chase 5% cash back calendar 2021

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March April – June July – September October – December
  • Select streaming services
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Wholesale clubs
TBA TBA TBA

Chase Freedom Unlimited overview

Like the Freedom Flex, the Freedom Unlimited earns bonus cash back on Ultimate Rewards travel (5% back) and dining and drugstore purchases (3% back). However, instead of rotating cash back categories, the Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on general purchases. There’s also no annual fee, and no interest on purchases for 15 months from account opening (after which a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74% applies). The card is currently offering a $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first three months.

Upsides: The Freedom Unlimited card offers a straightforward rewards program that allows cardholders to earn at least 1.5% on every purchase they make – with no earning caps or rotating categories.

Downsides: Although 1.5% cash back is a substantial amount to earn on general purchases, it’s not the highest rate out there.

trio of Ultimate Rewards cards.

See related: Chase Ultimate Rewards guide: The best ways to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points

*All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. 

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

Source: creditcards.com

Prepare Yourself for the Future of Work

The future of work has been on our collective minds for some time.

Technically, you never arrive in the future. It’s always, by definition, ahead of you. Yet months into a global pandemic that has triggered major changes to how we work, many experts are saying the future of work is hurtling towards us.

I sat down with Vice President of People and Communities at Cisco Systems, Elaine Mason. Elaine is a well-read deep thinker on the subject of the future of work, and I invited her to share her own research-based reflections on the changes we’ve seen so far, and what may still be to come.

And no matter what your job, career stage, or aspiration, Elaine shared plenty of tangible advice you can put to work today to prepare for your future professional success.

We focused our conversation on four trends that have been particularly relevant in 2020. These were:

  1. The remote workforce
  2. Diversity and Inclusion as part of corporate strategy
  3. Movement in the gig economy
  4. Shifts in corporate structure and hierarchy

The future of work and the remote workforce

Remote work could be here to stay

As I write this piece in my dining room—while my kids homeschool in their bedrooms—I’m aware that working virtually has become the norm for many across the globe.

Prior to the pandemic, company philosophies on remote work were all over the map. Some organizations have worked virtually for years. Many others resisted the trend.

The world of work has probably fundamentally changed.

But as Elaine describes the current state of virtual work, “With the rare exceptions of lab work, manufacturing, healthcare, [and other frontline professions] the majority of us are now [commuting]… seven feet from our beds to our offices.”

“The world of work has probably fundamentally changed,” she says.

Companies that had previously been cynical of virtual work have been forced to acknowledge that things are getting done. In many cases, executives report higher levels of productivity than ever.

But Elaine warns that studies on productivity are not yet conclusive. Some show productivity is up. Others, however, contend that work time is up, but actual productivity is down. The jury remains out.

So what’s next in the world of virtual work and productivity?

The purpose of the traditional office will evolve

Elaine predicts that virtual work is here to stay … sort of. The way we use the traditional office will likely shift.

"Workspaces will be used more like community service centers," she said. "What you're [likely] to see is those large campuses for a lot of organizations… will probably shrink, and the use of that space will be more event-based or point-in-time-based."

Workspaces will be used more like community service centers … and the use of that space will be more event-based or point-in-time-based.

In other words, there will be an office to go to, but it won’t necessarily be everyone’s default. You’ll go if and when a project or occasion calls for an in-person working session.

The good news? “If you're a new Yorker,” she offers, “that's been dying to live in Wyoming, this [may be] your chance.”

The concept of productivity will evolve

As Elaine points out, the measurement of virtual productivity is messy. Many companies measure by the amount of time employees spend on screens. By that measure, productivity is going up. But so is burnout.

Wearable technologies (think augmented and virtual reality) will allow companies to better measure how employees engage with their work.

In the future, she explains, we will begin to see a shift toward wearable technologies (think augmented and virtual reality) that will allow companies to better measure how employees engage with their work beyond staring at screens.

We’ll see a more complex definition of productivity grounded in actual outcomes versus just minutes online.

HOW YOU CAN PREPARE

  • Rethink your geography. If you want to make a move, this may be your moment.
  • Consider your priorities. Let go of the mindset that busyness equals productiveness. What impact do you want to have, and what work do you need to prioritize in service of that?

The future of work and Diversity and Inclusion

While the pandemic has challenged companies to figure out remote work on the fly, social justice happenings have pushed Diversity and Inclusion to the forefront of corporate priorities.

Progressive organizations are weaving Diversity and Inclusion into the fabric of their business strategies.

Elain says, "Companies are focusing on the triple bottom line: People, Profit, Planet… putting social justice into how they operate.”

So what does this look like in practice?

According to Elaine, companies are moving away from having standalone diversity strategies and departments. Progressive organizations are weaving Diversity and Inclusion into the fabric of their business strategies.

Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) are a great example of this trend. ERG’s are voluntary, employee-led groups within organizations that aim to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace. Each group typically includes participants who share a characteristic such as gender identification or ethnicity. 

Employee Resource Groups are no longer just there to serve participants—they are informing company investment decisions.

At Cisco, Elaine says, the executive leadership team has started meeting quarterly with ERG’s to understand their experiences and incorporate their ideas into business decisions. These ERG’s, in other words, are no longer just there to serve participants—they are informing company investment decisions.

ERG recommendations are helping to shape product development and positioning and marketing strategy, all of which contribute to top and bottom lines.

Organizations like Twitter are beginning to compensate ERG leaders—historically these have been volunteer roles—in recognition of their strategic value.

HOW YOU CAN PREPARE

  • Lean into diversity. Don’t just pay it lip service, but be proactive in engaging with a variety of voices and experiences.
  • Be humble. Know you’ll make mistakes along the way. “Listen. And assume you don’t know [things],” Elaine says.

The future of work and the gig economy

“Gig is having fits and starts,” Elaine said. She described the tension that many American workers face between desiring the independence of gig work but also relying on the healthcare and benefits provided by full-time employment.

Job insecurity will continue to push people to consider going out on their own, while the need for employer-provided health insurance will challenge that choice.

And she believes that tension will keep the gig economy in the US in fits-and-starts mode. Job insecurity will continue to push people to consider going out on their own, while the need for employer-provided health insurance will challenge that choice.

HOW YOU CAN PREPARE

  • Be incredibly clear about what you’re qualified to do. What do you want to do? Where those things overlap? “This requires a good degree of self-awareness and an understanding of what [you’re] known for today."
  • Decide where you need to invest. Are there experiences, credentials, references you need to accumulate? Do those things early.
  • Focus on standing out. If you do business strategy consulting, for example, is there a unique angle you can offer to help yourself stand out from other such consultants? Differentiation will matter more as the gig economy grows.

The future of work and shifts in corporate structure and hierarchy

Recent years have revealed a good deal of pendulum swinging when it comes to how much structure and hierarchy is best.

“There was a real trend in the last decade,” Elaine explained “of breaking down structures [and] silos.” She described how online shoe-retailer Zappos experimented with the Holocracy—a means of giving decision authority to groups and teams rather than individuals. (Spoiler: they’ve since moved away from this un-structure.)

Companies, in Elaine’s opinion, are working to determine the ideal balance of hierarchy and freedom. And the previous trends we discussed are having a big impact on that decision.

Everyone is trying to design for agility and resilience, two of today’s buzziest words.

So while some companies are leaning toward structure and hierarchy while others lean away, the common thread she sees is that everyone is trying to design for agility and resilience, two of today’s buzziest words.

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind a company that it needs to be ready for absolutely anything. As organizations assess how they’re organized, they’re asking questions like “How fast can we recover? What contingencies do we have in place? What plan Bs and plan Cs do we have?” 

Elaine doesn’t know exactly what structure the organization of the future will take on. But she does offer some actionable wisdom.

HOW YOU CAN PREPARE

  • Gain new skills. Whatever your role, function, or industry, upskill yourself on being ready for change at any moment
  • Think broadly about what “career progression” means for you. As companies evolve, titles and promotions may no longer be the thing to shoot for.

For Elaine, she measures her own progression through three lenses that you too might consider:

  • Economic. How much money do you want or need to make?
  • Impact. "How close are you to positions of power and authority that allow you to make the largest impact on an organization?"
  • Personal growth. Are you learning new things as you go?

And there you have it. No one, not even the great Elaine Mason, can predict the future. But there are some actions you can take that will be sure to serve you, no matter what the years ahead might look like.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

What This Military Family Faced—and Fought—To Buy Its First House

first time home buyerNatalie Johnson

First-time home buyers today face a tough road, shopping for homes during a pandemic, high housing prices, and deep economic uncertainty. For military families deployed overseas, it’s all even trickier to figure out.

In this second story in our new series “First-Time Home Buyer Confessions,” we talked with husband and wife Kyle LaVallee and Natalie Johnson. They were renting an apartment in Fayetteville, NC, when they decided to start shopping for their own home in the area in April.

At the time, LaVallee was stationed in the Middle East as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Yet even though he was thousands of miles away, he managed to attend every home tour with Johnson via FaceTime. In July, they closed on a brick, ranch-style three-bedroom that LaVallee would not see in person until a long-awaited trip home in October.

Here’s the couple’s home-buying story, the hardest challenges they faced, and what LaVallee thought of his new house once he home managed to lay eyes on it for the first time.

Location: Fayetteville, NC

House specs: 1,166 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
List price: $111,900
Price paid: $115,000

A pandemic plus deployment seems like a tough time to buy your first house. What convinced you to forge ahead?

Johnson: Kyle was deployed in October 2019 while we were renting a one-bedroom apartment in Fayetteville. Kyle wasn’t fond of renewing the apartment lease—we had been there for two years and were running out of space. We wanted to get a dog; we wanted a yard, and our own property where we can do anything we wanted.

We started educating ourselves on the process. We knew a mortgage was going to be significantly less than what we were paying in rent. Kyle thought it would be smart to buy because [nearby] Fort Bragg is one of the biggest military bases in the world. If we ever leave or get stationed somewhere else, we’re not going to have a problem finding anyone to rent it. And we could always come back.

Kyle LaVallee and Natalie Johnson at one of their favorite hangouts in Fayetteville, where they’ve decided to put down roots

Natalie Johnson

LaVallee: I was interested in gaining equity and ownership, rather than just paying to rent something I’d never own in the end.

Johnson: We started looking at houses back in January. In April, we kept seeing information about lowering interest rates. That’s why we got serious about the process in the middle of the pandemic, and when we connected with our real estate agent, Justin Kirk with Century 21.

How much did you put down on the house—and how’d you save for it?

Johnson: We put 20% down.

LaVallee: I was making a lot of money while I was deployed, and I had no expenses really. I was just saving everything I had, knowing I wanted to invest it in a house.

Johnson: I cut spending. I didn’t buy things I wanted, just what I needed. The pandemic helped a lot, honestly because we obviously couldn’t go out.

LaVallee: We qualified for a VA loan, but we just wound up using a conventional loan. Most people in the military will use a VA loan where you don’t put any money down, but [since we had enough saved] we wanted the lowest monthly mortgage payments.

first time home buyer
LaVallee and Johnson on LaVallee’s first morning in the new house after coming home from deployment

Natalie Johnson

What were you looking for in a house?

LaVallee: We knew we might [eventually] be moving, so it wasn’t like it had to be a house we would stay in forever, more of an investment property.

Johnson: We were looking for things that would be attractive to future renters. We had a military family in mind because Fayetteville’s got more than 50,000 active-duty. We looked for a location close to a Fort Bragg entrance. We thought three bedrooms was perfect for us because our families are close with each other, so they’ll all come down at the same time so we’ll have two extra bedrooms for them. Kyle really wanted a garage, so that was a huge thing.

LaVallee: Garages aren’t very common down here, so that limited a lot of options for us. A lot of houses have carports, or they finish the garage and turn it into a bonus room.

Johnson: We wanted something that needed a bit of fixing up, because we like to be handy and put our personal touch on everything, and we ultimately knew that would be a lower-cost house.

Johnson and LaVallee’s new kitchen

realtor.com

How many homes did you see in person, and how did Kyle participate from overseas?

Johnson: It was 10 or 12 homes. We were out three to four times a week looking at places with our real estate agent. We wore our masks for the tours, and I used hand sanitizer since I was opening and closing drawers and closets. Most were vacant, but we did tour one house that still had people living in it, although they were gone during the tour, so we avoided touching a lot of things.

During tours we FaceTimed Kyle in. We figured that was probably the most convenient way to do it since he could see every single house and room in detail.

The large living room in Johnson and LaVallee’s new house

realtor.com

LaVallee: Well, I couldn’t really see all the details.

Johnson: He got to know our real estate agent really well via FaceTime. Our agent would say, “Let me know if you need me to hold Kyle while you go look in this room.” I felt so bad, though, because I work full time, so I’d tour homes around 5:30 in the evening, which for Kyle was 2:30 in the morning. But he stayed up for every single tour.

LaVallee: I was sometimes frustrated not being able to be there. I left it all up to her. I had to trust the feelings and vibes she got from each house.

The big backyard where Johnson and LaVallee hope a dog will someday run around

realtor.com

How many offers did you make before you had one accepted?

Johnson: We put three earlier offers in.

LaVallee: They would be listed and the next day would be sold. The first three offers we put in were asking price, and I’m pretty sure everybody else offered more, and ours were never even considered.

Johnson: It was ridiculous. It was definitely a seller’s market, so you had to act really fast and you had to be really competitive. On our fourth offer, we ended up at $3,100 over asking. I felt like we had to fight for this house.

Johnson had to move into the new home without LaVallee’s help.

Natalie Johnson

Were you competing with other offers for the house you bought?

LaVallee: There were multiple offers.

Johnson: Our real estate agent told us, “You should definitely write a letter and talk about how Kyle’s gone right now and you’re first-time home buyers and this one really clicked with you,” which it did. The second I walked in, it’s this adorable brick house, it’s super homey, it has a great yard. In the letter, we just talked about how all of that was so attractive to us as first-time home buyers, and we were really excited and could see ourselves in this home.

Our real estate agent suggested going in higher than asking, so we just rounded up to $115,000. He also suggested doing a higher due diligence payment—we usually did $200, but this time around we did $500. And the earnest fee we put in was $500 or $600.

After our offer was accepted, we knew it was going to be kind of difficult with the home inspection. They were already redoing the roof, which was a huge cost on their part, so asking for more was definitely going to be a challenge. So we didn’t ask for much.

LaVallee and Johnson are happy they stuck it out in a competitive seller’s market and landed this home.

Natalie Johnson

What surprised you about the home-buying process?

Johnson: How fast it went, for me at least. Our first home tour was in April and then by June, we had found our house and the contracts were written up. I guess I was expecting it maybe to be double the time that it actually was, but houses were just turning over so fast, we had to act fast.

LaVallee: From my side, I thought it happened very slowly! I felt like so much was happening in between each step in the process. I had to be patient because I had so little control of the situation, other than just trying to stay involved and be a part of it.

Johnson: You never really think that when you’re married, you’re going to buy your first house while your husband is on the other side of the world. But we got through it.

Johnson and LaVallee (pictured on the right) on the day LaVallee returned from deployment

Natalie Johnson

So Natalie, you were living in the house for a few months before Kyle returned from deployment in October to see it. What was that homecoming like?

Johnson: He came home a few days shy of the 365-day mark. We were anxious and excited. Several other families and I waited outside of a hangar on base, and soon after hearing their plane landing, we saw the group walking toward us and everyone start cheering and crying.

Because it was dark when we got home, Kyle couldn’t see the outside of the house much, or the “Welcome Home” decorations I hung up! But the moment he set foot in the front door, he just stood there and looked around with the biggest smile on his face.

I gave him the grand tour the next morning. He said it looked much bigger than what he saw on FaceTime. We celebrated with a home-cooked meal and the wine our agent gave us when we closed. It was really special.

LaVallee: I came home to a nice house. Natalie was worried I would come back to culture shock. But I’ve felt at home ever since I’ve been here.

Johnson decorated the house for LaVallee’s return from deployment.

Natalie Johnson

first time home buyer
After LaVallee came home, the two finally got to toast their first home with a bottle of wine, courtesy of their real estate agent.

Natalie Johnson

What’s your advice for aspiring first-time home buyers?

Johnson: I would say to go with your gut. Some of the houses you’ll tour are really logical to buy, but if they have a bad vibe or they’re just not really welcoming, then look at others. A healthy balance between logic and feeling is important.

LaVallee: We didn’t even know what we wanted until we saw five or six houses, so it’s definitely important to shop around and see what’s out there.

Johnson: We really didn’t know much. I told our real estate agent, “Hey, listen, we’re really going to need some guidance. We don’t know what things mean, we need you to break it down for us. You have to be patient with us.” I reached out to three different real estate agents, and Justin was the one who not only answered all my questions but was giving a ton of positive feedback. It was nice to have that encouragement, and it definitely made us more confident. You learn a lot by looking at houses, you learn a ton about yourself.

Johnson and LaVallee met in elementary school.

Natalie Johnson

The post What This Military Family Faced—and Fought—To Buy Its First House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com