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    This is a Crash Course in Everything You Need to Know About Credit Cards

    This is a Crash Course in Everything You Need to Know About Credit Cards

    Credit is complicated, amiright?

    OK, maybe not the most confidence-inspiring thing to see on a personal finance site.

    But it’s true. Credit cards and other debt come with interest we often don’t understand and payment terms we can’t live up to.

    Even if you’re savvy and want to keep on top of your finances, just getting hold of the credit information that’s used to decide nearly everything in your life can feel like a feat.

    We’re here to simplify all of this for you. To help you get smarter about credit, pay down debt and put more money in your pocket, here’s a quick rundown of some credit card basics:

    (Hint: Bookmark this page to come back to anytime you have questions about using credit cards! You’re welcome.)

    How to Build Credit

    The weird conundrum about credit is you have to have it to earn it — but you would have had to… have credit to earn that original credit?

    It sounds like a disaster, but don’t worry. This isn’t a high school lunchroom. You can totally break into the cool kids’ circle. Here’s how to start building your credit from scratch.

    Why You Should Use Credit Cards Instead of Cash

    We think Dave Ramsey was wrong when he said, “Responsible use of a credit card does not exist.”

    It’s true credit cards are tough to keep under control, and that’s why so many people are afraid to use them. But you can do it. And when you do, you get to reap fantastic rewards!

    Here are 10 smart reasons to pay with credit cards — as long as you can pay your balance off at the end of each month.

    Which Credit Cards Should You Use?

    Not all cards are equally beneficial. With some, you simply run the risk of building a bunch of debt with a high interest rate.

    With others, though, you can earn free flights and hotels, points toward food and entertainment, and even cash. Here are a few to consider:

    Is an Annual Fee Ever Worth It?

    Ever wonder if you should pay to use a credit card? Lots of great credit cards come without fees, so why choose one with an annual fee? Because those are often the ones with the best rewards!

    Cash-back rewards could net you a profit over the annual fee for your card. In that case, the fee could be worth it.

    But it gets tricky (of course). To help you figure out whether the credit card you’re considering is worth it, our contributor Steve Gilman created this simple formula.

    How to Keep Track of Your Credit Score

    Once you establish credit, you’re going to want to keep an eye on your activity.

    Credit card companies, lenders, landlords and others will use your credit report to determine whether to trust you. You can make sure you understand what kind of impression you’ll make by watching your credit score and report closely.

    (Pst. Credit score and credit report are not the same thing.)

    First things first: What the F*CO is a credit score? In plain English, we explain credit score basics and why you need to know yours here.

    And we compared two common apps that show your free credit score: Credit Sesame versus Credit Karma — which is best for you?

    How to Read a Credit Report

    You want more than just that grade. You want to understand what earned you the grade.

    That’s why you’ll want to see your credit report — the statement that lists information about your credit activity and current situation, like payment history and status of your credit card accounts.

    Here’s how to get your free credit report (no sneaky tactics here) — and how to understand the financial mumbo jumbo it contains.

    One bummer: You might find mistakes on your report. Lenders and reporting agencies are far from perfect, so they might neglect to update your credit report when you pay off debts, for example. Or someone will hit the wrong key at the office, and your credit will be marred with some debt you never touched.

    Here’s how to fix those mistakes on your credit report.

    What Affects Your Credit Score?

    I’ve noticed an odd phenomenon: When you visit any site that lets you check your credit score, it always has a big note that says, “This won’t affect your credit score!”

    That’s true: Checking your credit score won’t hurt it. When you think about it, wouldn’t that be ridiculous? That’s like if your professors docked your grade when you ask to see your test scores.

    But people still believe this myth, because the algorithm that determines your credit score is as confusing and scary as the one that determines what you see on Facebook (and nearly as life-altering…).

    Here’s what’s actually included and how much each weighs into your score:

    • How much of your available credit you use: 30%
    • How old your credit accounts are: 15%
    • The variety in types of credit you’ve taken out: 10%
    • How often you’re applying for new credit: 10%

    Here’s a more detailed overview of the types of activities that can affect your credit score (and those that can’t).

    On a similar note, here’s exactly how closing an old credit card can affect your score.

    And one more thing: What happens to your debt when you get married? A lot of bad information makes the rounds on that front, so let’s clear it up. Here are six myths about debt and marriage you should stop believing right now.

    How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt

    To redeem Dave Ramsey, we do like the debt-payoff method he pioneered called the debt-snowball method. (Click that link to learn all about it.)

    While it’s not the most perfect way to pay off credit cards — because it lets debt sit and gather interest — it’s a smart way to get moving when you feel immobilized by how much you owe.

    Experts would recommend what’s come to be known as the debt-avalanche method of debt repayment.

    This method eschews the instant gratification you get with the snowball method, but it’ll probably save you more money in the long run.

    How to Consolidate Credit Card Debt

    Another option to consider when you have a lot of debt to pay off is consolidation. This basically means you’ll take out one big loan to pay off your smaller credit card debts.

    Ideally, that loan has a lower interest rate than your credit cards, so you’ll owe less long term. Plus, you’ll just have the one monthly payment to worry about instead of a bunch of payments with a bunch of due dates.

    If you want to consider debt consolidation, here are six steps to get you started.

    What to Do When You’re Out of Options

    Sometimes life gets the best of you. We understand that. If you’re already up to your ears in debt and not sure what to do next, we’ve got a few final pieces of advice.

    Those folks on the late-night commercials who promise to help you pay off debt quickly? They spin a good yarn, but their promises are often way too good to be true.

    If getting help seems like the best route for you, here are four things to consider when choosing a credit-repair company.

    If you’re dealing with debt-collection agencies, you don’t have to put up with harassing phone calls. Know your rights.

    Any More Questions?

    Credit cards and debt are sort of ginormous issues in the world of personal finance. They’re becoming ubiquitous in our lives, even though most of us barely understand how any of this works.

    We hope these basics help untangle some of the confusion — but we know there’s plenty more to cover.

    What more do you want to know about credit cards and repaying debt? Send us your questions, and we hope to answer them in a future post!

    Advertiser Disclosure: Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which The Penny Hoarder receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). We do not feature all available credit card offers or all credit card issuers.

    Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    This Study Says These 5 States are Most Vulnerable to Identity Theft

    This Study Says These 5 States are Most Vulnerable to Identity Theft

    Been hacked lately?

    I hate asking that question so casually, but 2017 has been a year of big-time data breaches, including the recent Equifax incident, which exposed approximately 145.5 million Americans’ info.

    If you managed to squeak through the hackers’ cracks, you’re probably feeling pretty invincible, right?

    Not so fast.

    WalletHub recently concluded some Americans are more susceptible to these crimes than others. It analyzed a number of factors, including identity-theft complaints per capita and average loss per theft, in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

    In the end, WalletHub found these five states are most vulnerable to identity theft:

    1. California
    2. Rhode Island
    3. District of Columbia
    4. Florida
    5. Georgia

    It also ranked states by the average amount of loss due to online identity theft. These states, in order of highest loss, include:

    1. California
    2. Rhode Island
    3. Vermont
    4. New York
    5. Connecticut

    In case you’re curious, the “lowest average loss amount due to online identity theft” award goes to South Dakota.

    Yup, packing up my winter coats as we speak…

    How to Protect Your Identity in Two Minutes

    Start by taking the easiest of steps.

    Create strong passwords, be mindful when shopping online and applying to jobs, and sign up for a credit-monitoring service.

    I signed up for Credit Sesame — because if it’s free, it’s for me! — and now receive monthly credit-report updates to my inbox. Credit Sesame will also text me if anyone attempts to apply for credit in my name.

    I can also review my credit report at any time for any suspicious activity. (And, no, it won’t hurt my credit score.)

    Additionally, it covers me for up to $50,000 in identity-theft insurance. Fo’ free.

    Honestly, it’s like a built-in alarm system for my credit report. Just like a security system for my house, it helps me sleep better at night. (OK, that’s cheesy, but don’t you sleep better knowing a shockingly loud alarm will sound if someone tries to break in?!)

    Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She wishes she could keep virtual pepper spray next to her credit report. But Credit Sesame is a great alternative.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    How This Woman Decorated Her Whole House for Halloween for Less Than $50

    How This Woman Decorated Her Whole House for Halloween for Less Than $50

    Kristy Gaunt has always loved Halloween.

    When she was growing up, her incredibly crafty mom, Yvonne, decorated the family home for every holiday — and Halloween was one of the big ones.

    Gaunt, an illustrative designer at The Penny Hoarder, knew she wanted to continue that tradition when she moved out on her own but said her college roommates were never into putting up Halloween decorations.

    Then she graduated from Florida State University in May and moved into a rental home with her boyfriend, Penny Hoarder video manager Michael House.

    This year was her year.

    Still, she doubted whether she’d be able to pull things off… because of the cost.

    “It was kind of a scary, daunting thought, thinking ‘Oh, it’s time to decorate,’” Gaunt said. “Honestly, I just saw dollar signs.”

    She thought she wouldn’t be able to afford to do much, but a friend tipped her off to great dollar store finds, which was the perfect solution to ease Gaunt’s concerns.

    When Gaunt and House made a random trip to their local Dollar Tree in mid-September, Gaunt was pleasantly surprised.

    “Suddenly we were in the dollar store and I [said to myself], “No, wait, I can actually do this! I can actually decorate my entire house super cheap,’” she recalled.

    Thrifty Finds Create a Spooky Setup

    Gaunt created this custom skeleton wreath using materials from Dollar Tree. Michael House/The Penny Hoarder

    Spending less than $30, Gaunt and House were able to deck out the outside of their home to entice all the trick-or-treaters in the neighborhood to stop on by.

    Here’s the cost breakdown:

    • Black mesh from Dollar Tree (six packs at $1 each): $6
    • White webbing with spiders from Dollar Tree (two packs at $1 each): $2
    • “Zombie Crossing” tape from Dollar Tree: $1
    • Halloween doormat from Five Below: $4
    • Cemetery scene from Dollar Tree (six pieces separately priced at $1 each): $6
    • Plain wreath from Michaels: $5
    • Skeleton skull and two hands from Dollar Tree (priced at $1 each): $3
    • Package of four bats from Dollar Tree: $1

    Total: $28

    Using the wreath (which Gaunt painted black), the skeleton skull and hands, the package of bats and some of the webbing material, Gaunt and her mom created a custom skeleton wreath to go on the front door. They also used a bow and some faux black roses and leaves that Gaunt’s mom already had.

    Gaunt draped the black mesh and white webbing across her front windows and porch. She wrapped her fence with the “Zombie Crossing” tape and arranged the cemetery setup right in front of the walkway leading up to her door.

    Gaunt customized the doormat with red paint to add a splatter of blood and to change the wording from “Come In We’re Dead” to “Come In You’re Dead.”

    More Than Just the Outside

    Gaunt and House didn’t spare the inside of their home from the Halloween spirit either. They used a mix of new items plus gifted and borrowed items.

    They purchased a set of bloody footprint decals from Dollar Tree for $1 for the front entryway floor. Gaunt said she splurged on a $10 spiderweb tablecloth from Target — a last-minute find she couldn’t resist.

    Gaunt borrowed four Halloween signs to hang on doors throughout her home and two votive candle holders for the living room and the dining room. A creepy cat lady candle holder, which Gaunt received as a birthday gift, and some small pumpkins from the grocery store rounded out the indoor decor.

    Gaunt also purchased a $5 fake bloody arm from Michaels to stick out of the trunk of her car, bringing the total expense to $44.

    She shares three pieces of solid advice for others looking to add some spook factor to their homes this Halloween:

    • Shop at discount or dollar stores first.
    • Take advantage of sales and coupons at other retailers.
    • Evaluate what you truly want to have and what is just extra.

    “Really think about the decorations that you’re buying and if you can get it somewhere else cheaper,” Gaunt advises.

    An Original Touch

    With just three weeks before Halloween, Gaunt admitted she wasn’t quite done decorating — but what she has in mind isn’t something that can be bought.

    During the month of October, Gaunt and House have challenged themselves to produce an original creation once a day — for her, a hand-drawn illustration, and for him, a photograph — that follows a specific Halloween theme.

    Gaunt said she has a bunch of extra frames and plans to hang up some of the artwork on a rotating basis. Decorations don’t have to be purchased from a store, she said.

    Not everyone may be as artistically inclined to create their own Halloween decorations, but as Gaunt learned, you don’t have to spend a fortune making your home festive for the holiday.

    Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    California Employers Can No Longer Ask Job Seekers This Dreaded Question

    California Employers Can No Longer Ask Job Seekers This Dreaded Question

    Starting the first of the year, job seekers in California will have one less section to fill out on applications and one less interview question to worry about as they meet with potential employers.

    Gov. Jerry Brown signed a salary privacy bill into law last week, making it illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their former salaries and benefits, The Orange County Register reports. The law goes into effect January 1.

    This is good news for everyone who believes they shouldn’t be judged based on how much money they made in the past.

    Employees who previously accepted lower wages shouldn’t have to suffer under an earnings ceiling. Workers willing to take a pay cut shouldn’t be restricted from a position they desire just because they used to make more money.

    Also, advocates of the law say it will help reduce the gender wage gap.

    “Women negotiating a salary shouldn’t have to wrestle an entire history of wage disparity,” the bill’s principal author, California Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, said.

    Laws prohibiting employers from asking about salary history have already been passed in Massachusetts, Oregon and Delaware, The Orange County Register reports.The newspaper also noted several cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have done the same.

    California’s new law also requires potential employers to disclose a salary range for the job in question, should an applicant ask about it, SFGate reports.

    This gives job seekers an upper hand when it comes to salary negotiations because they’ll already have that insider knowledge of how much a company has budgeted for the position.

    If you’re not living in California (or any of the other places that have outlawed asking about salary history), these tips will help you handle that dreaded question the next time it comes up in a job interview.

    Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    Opa! Here’s How to Score a Free Gyro at Quiznos Later This Month

    Opa! Here’s How to Score a Free Gyro at Quiznos Later This Month

    Okay, quick. What do you call a Greek sandwich made with pita bread, rotisserie lamb meat and other goodies?

    Yeah! It’s a gyro!

    But how in the heck do you say it? Yeero? Jyro? Jeero? Gearo? Hero?

    If you’re not sure how to pronounce it, you’re not alone.

    Regardless of how you say it, you can get a free one at Quiznos on Wednesday, Oct. 25!

    Quiznos Adds Gyros to the Menu

    Quiznos, the sandwich shop best known for its toasty goodness, just added three new gyro offerings to its menu. Participating locations will serve gyro flatbreads, gyro subs and gyro salads through the end of 2017.

    So what do you do when you add something new to your menu and you want people to try it? You give it away!

    On Wednesday, Oct. 25, just stop by Quiznos and make any purchase, and you can get a free flatbread gyro.

    You don’t even need a coupon. The offer is limited to one per person and is not available for delivery.  

    Love munching on Quiznos? Give yourself a bonus: Sign up for its loyalty phone app and get a coupon for a free 4-inch sub with any purchase. Not too shabby.

    Point to the sign. Butcher the word. It doesn’t matter. Knowing how to say “gyro” correctly is not required for this offer. But it may not hurt to practice. Don’t be confused by the first entry — you have to scroll down to the second for the correct pronunciation of the sandwich, which is “jeero.”

    Tell your friends. Tell the office. Then, on Wednesday, Oct. 25, you can all get your midweek Greek on with a free gyro.

    Opa!

    Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    Here’s How First Responders Can Eat Free at Macaroni Grill This October

    Here’s How First Responders Can Eat Free at Macaroni Grill This October

    First responders are the backbone of our communities.

    They fight blazing fires, keep crime off the streets and provide lifesaving care after tragedy hits. They don’t wear capes — they’re regular people, just like us — but their service is invaluable.

    Taking care of society can stir up quite an appetite. To thank these hungry heroes, Romano’s Macaroni Grill will offer these individuals a free meal for the entire month of October.

    How First Responders Can Eat Free at Macaroni Grill This Month

    Now through Oct. 31, police officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and all hospital staff can get a free meal when they dine in at Macaroni Grill.

    The fast-casual Italian chain will give them a free order of Mama’s ricotta meatballs and spaghetti. This dine-in-only offer is good for lunch or dinner, and it’s only good for one meal per sitting. First responders can, however, claim this deal as many times as they want throughout the month.

    To claim the deal, simply show you first-responder credentials to your server.
    Here’s to you, first responders. Thank you for all you do!

    Kelly Anne Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    Get Your Eeek On: 7 Spooky Places to Go This Halloween for Free Scares

    Get Your Eeek On: 7 Spooky Places to Go This Halloween for Free Scares

    One of the best things (or worst, depending on your perspective) about Halloween is the abundance of haunted houses.

    Some of the milder attractions play spooky music while visitors wander through cobwebby hallways. Others crank the fear factor to 11 with monsters popping out of closets.

    Either way, it costs money to put on that type of production, so many haunted houses charge a fee to let you in the door.

    Luckily, you can get your scare on for free if you’ve got the time to do a little homework.

    Head over to your local library and have a look at the section of books on your area’s local history. There’s probably at least one guidebook on strange and haunted locations.

    There might be folklore attached to a stretch of road, old bridge, abandoned building or local park that you never knew existed. (If you live near a hellmouth, there could be a lot of creepy spots in your town.)

    If you strike out at the library, call your local historical society. (Trust me, they’ve been asked, “Where are the local haunted spots?” a million times.) Failing that, an internet search will almost certainly turn up something within driving distance.

    A note of caution: Many cemeteries carry legends of ghost sightings or other tales. If you decide to go check one out for yourself, remember to enter only during posted hours and to respect its rules of conduct.

    If this year’s Halloween plans are already locked in place, here’s a list of seven creepy locations around the country to keep in mind in case you feel like a road trip next year.

    1. The Cursed Forest of Massachusetts

    Freetown-Fall River State Forest is a vast and unassuming expanse of land in southeastern Massachusetts. It’s a great place to hike, fish or ride a horse.

    Just don’t get to close to the Bridgewater Triangle. You might run into Bigfoot, get plucked off your feet by a giant bird or carted away by a UFO.

    2. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery

    You’d think the potential for an encounter with the undead would the the scariest thing about Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery.

    Nope.

    While it’s true that you might see an apparition or two wandering around this Chicago-area graveyard, it’s the disappearing house that’s the real story here.

    Some people report seeing a little white house on the cemetery grounds that became smaller or vanished as they walked toward it. Even creepier, the house was visible they next time they went back to the cemetery!

    3. Spook Hill

    How about a visit to a place so weird you don’t even have to leave your car to get freaked out?

    A little spit of land on Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida, is said to defy gravity because of a long-dead alligator that still holds a grudge.

    To find out for yourself, just park your car at the bottom of the hill and… well. You’ll just have to wait and see.

    4. Pope Lick Trestle

    The Pope Lick train trestle in Louisville, Kentucky, has a rather unusual story associated with it.

    Apparently the Pope Lick Monster – half man, half goat – lives atop the trestle and spends his days luring people onto the tracks ahead of oncoming trains.

    Whether you believe the legend or not, one thing is absolutely true. Many people have been killed on this trestle trying to catch a glimpse of Goatman. To look for him safely, stay on the main road or go into the nearby park – but stay off the tracks, please.

    5. St. John’s Episcopal Church

    Here’s another free scare you don’t even have to get out of your car to check out. In fact, if there’s any merit to this tale, you’re better off staying locked in your vehicle and stepping on the gas.

    Legend has it that if you drive slowly past St. John’s Episcopal Church on Highway 194 in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, a demon dog leaps out of nowhere to chase your car.

    Nice doggy?

    6. The Marfa Lights

    When you’ve had enough of land-based frights, it’s time to check out the Marfa Lights. (Sorry, readers, I rhyme when I’m creeped out.)

    The mysterious light show in Marfa, Texas, is so popular there’s even a viewing park complete with picnic tables and commemorative plaques.

    You might think there’s some plausible atmospheric explanation that accounts for the phenomenon, but locals will tell you that’s a lot of hooey.  

    7. Goldfield Ghost Town

    Visitors check out Goldfield Ghost Town, a gold mining town located on the historic Apache Trail in Apache Junction, Arizona. AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey

    If a simple train trestle or little stretch of road isn’t stomach-churning enough for you, how does an entire ghost town sound?

    This former mining town is said to be teeming with the spirits of its former residents.

    In fact, a paranormal investigator says she saw a man there come out of a tree.

    Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s ready to visit all these places. After you.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    This Investing App Helped This Guy Save $35K for a Down Payment on a House

    This Investing App Helped This Guy Save $35K for a Down Payment on a House

    More than anything, Joshua Harding wanted to buy his own house.

    Harding, 29, makes a good living from his career in medical sales, with some real estate on the side. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona. After years of renting, he felt it was time to buy his own house.

    That meant he needed to save up some money for a down payment. But he couldn’t figure out the best way to do it.

    These days, a down payment on a house averages about 6% of the house’s total value, according to the National Association of Realtors, although it can vary significantly from one homebuyer to the next.

    It’s a myth that you need a down payment of 20%, although that was a rule of thumb for previous generations

    To save up a down payment, Harding knew he needed a hands-on digital savings account — something simple and intuitive he could run from his phone. He knew that’d be the only kind of savings strategy that could work for him.

    “Just something convenient,” he says. “Something where you can click into the app and you can see everything you want to see.”

    Harding needed to save up about $35,000 for his down payment and had tried similar savings apps before, but he never really took a shine to them.

    The Clink app seemed different, though.

    “It just seems like they’re more transparent about exactly what they’re investing in, and how they’re investing,” he says.

    How the Clink App Helped Harding Save for a Down Payment

    Clink is a micro-investing app designed for beginning investors who want to start small. It enables you to invest in the stock market for as little as $1 a day.

    Regardless of how much you choose to invest, your money gets deposited into Exchange-Traded Funds, also known as ETFs.

    These investment funds are basically groups of several stocks, commodities or bonds that get traded together on the stock market. Since there are a bunch of them in each fund, there’s a lot less risk involved if the market slows down.

    Once you link your bank account, the app automatically withdraws what you want to invest and puts it to work. You can also choose to invest larger amounts on a daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.

    Or, link your credit card, and have Clink invest a percentage of what you spend — so you can make sure you’re balancing your spending with savings.

    While it’s an option, Harding wasn’t going to start with $1 per day. He already had some savings.

    He dropped $2,000 of his savings into it, informing the Clink app that he preferred a “moderate” amount of risk when investing. (He could have chosen “aggressive” or “conservative” instead.)

    Then he simply stopped paying attention to it. He figured he’d just see what happened.

    “After a while, I noticed that it was growing pretty quickly,” he says. “I felt like it was a good way to save.”

    Clink’s average return on clients’ investments was about 10% over the last year, about 7% over the last decade, according to the company.

    Harding started dropping about $450 a week into Clink. He put his federal income tax return into Clink. Every month or so, he’d stick another $2,000 from his other savings accounts into Clink.

    Between October 2016 and August 2017, he saved enough money in Clink to make the $35,000 down payment on a house.

    Why the Clink App Was ‘A Major Part of the Process’

    Harding says he was ready to be a homeowner.

    “That was definitely a long-term goal,” he says. “I didn’t anticipate that Clink would be part of that process, but it ended up being a major part of the process.”

    He says he’s been satisfied by Clink’s customer service, too, which is done via online chat.

    “Whenever I have a question, somebody immediately has an answer for me,” he says.

    That came in handy when it was time to close on his new house. At the last minute, a loan underwriter wanted additional paperwork regarding his investments and projections of their future growth.

    “Clink was able to provide that,” Harding says. “They had solutions. That goes a long way.”

    Since he just recently made his down payment on a house, his Clink account is looking pretty empty. But he’s starting to build it back up, sending $450 a week.

    He says he doesn’t even keep a “traditional” savings account at a physical bank anymore.

    “The return from Clink has been significant enough for me to say that I don’t need a savings account for this money,” he says.

    The Clink app charges $1 a month, but it also offers a $5 signup bonus — which is like getting five months free. To get started, download the app here. Be sure to use the promo code: PH2016

    For Harding, the biggest change to come from Clink is he now owns a home.

    “Having my own house is a great feeling,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to know that you can get what you want.”

    Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He needs to save more.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    This Health Insurance Survey Will Pay You $25 for 10 Minutes of Your Time

    This Health Insurance Survey Will Pay You $25 for 10 Minutes of Your Time

    Many of us have feelings about health insurance.

    And questions. So many questions. Like, Why is it so hard to get an answer to my question?

    Not many people want to hear you gripe — but your new best friend JOANY is willing to lend an ear.

    JOANY isn’t a single person, but a healthcare concierge service. Its employees help individuals find and compare plans, seek out doctors and navigate complicated medical bills.

    The company’s goal? Simplify the whole darn process.

    In order to best cater to customers, it needs you to answer some survey questions — it takes less than 10 minutes, with fewer than 50 questions.

    In return, you’ll pocket a free $25.

    Do You Qualify for JOANY’s Health Insurance Survey?

    In order to participate, you’ll need to meet these qualifications:

    • You purchased health insurance for 2017 through your state exchange, Healthcare.gov, a broker or a plan, such as Oscar or Aetna.
    • You don’t receive health insurance through your employer.
    • You don’t receive health insurance through your school or university.
    • You aren’t enrolled in a short-term plan.
    • Your health insurance is currently active.
    • You aren’t on Medicaid, Medicare or VA health insurance.

    Were you able to tick off all these boxes? Start the survey.

    What to Expect From JOANY’s Health Insurance Survey

    JOANY promises fewer than 50 questions and less than 10 minutes of your time.

    You’ll start with some basic questions about your birthday, gender, household income, profession, zip code — you get the point.

    The questions then become more health-oriented: How many doctor visits do you think you’ll make next year? What medications do you take?

    Then you’ll answer those questions you’ve been burning to vent about: How do you feel about your health insurance? What do you like the most and least about it? How long does it really take for you to figure out which doctors are covered?

    Most questions are multiple choice, making answering easy.

    JOANY will also ask you to text a photo of your health insurance card before continuing on.

    It’s worth noting that all your answers — including that photo of your insurance card — are protected under HIPAA.

    Once you submit the health insurance survey, a representative from JOANY will be in touch within 48 hours. If there are no further questions, you’ll get compensated for your time: $25 through Paypal, an Amazon gift card or, really, however you wish.

    Plus, you’ll go to bed tonight knowing you’ve helped improve this confusing, muddled world of health insurance.

    Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Talks of health insurance stress her out.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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    This Is How to Deal With Your Friend Who ‘Forgot’ His Wallet. Again.

    This Is How to Deal With Your Friend Who ‘Forgot’ His Wallet. Again.

    Have you ever had that one friend who conveniently forgets their wallet whenever you go out to eat?

    “I’ve got you next time, bro,” he says with a smile.

    When next time rolls around, though, his debit card magically disappears!

    We’ve all known that somebody, and according to a new study, the debt they accumulate can lead to a massive falling out between friends.

    Lending Money to Friends Can Get Really Awkward

    The “Friends Again” report by Bank of America surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. ages 18 and older. The findings revealed some not-so-happy results when it comes to lending money to friends.

    According to the report, 77% of Americans believe IOUs are harmful to relationships; plus, 53% have seen friendships end over outstanding debt.

    Thirty-six percent of respondents said $101 to $500 is enough money to end a friendship over.

    Branndon Coelho, lead developer at The Penny Hoarder, once sold a friend his original Nintendo for $100, including all of his games.

    His friend never paid him, though. Coelho eventually decided to tell him to not worry about the money, but the situation had lasting effects on their friendship.

    “There is a mental block anytime that I think about contacting him, though… we haven’t talked in years. I think it put a strain on our relationship and made me realize where I stood in his world,” said Coelho.

    It might not strictly be just because of money owed, though. When it comes down to it, almost half the respondents say asking friends to pay them back makes them uncomfortable.

    How to Avoid Losing a Friend Over Money

    Coelho says he wasn’t uncomfortable asking his friend for the money — it just became clear he was never going to get it.

    Either way, an IOU situation is awkward. Do we ask for the money? Do we seem rude or pushy if we do? Should we trust that our friend will pay it back?

    If you have a friend who is racking up a bill when it comes to their IOU, here are a few ways you can handle it without losing the friendship along the way:

    • Write it all down. If it seems like your friend always asks you to spot them some cash, start writing down every time they do and how much. Maybe your friend doesn’t even realize just how often they ask you for money. If you’re comfortable, sit down with them and show them the list — it might change their perspective.
    • Ask them to digitally transfer you the funds. This is the best way to make sure you get your money ASAP. There are tons of free apps out there, such as PayPal or Venmo, that make transferring money to friends easy and fee-free. This works amazingly for that “forgot my debit card” moment.
    • Draft a contract. Clearly, you’re not going to go this route for splitting the dinner tab, but sometimes a friend needs a big chunk of change for their rent or other bills. If that’s the case, write up a contract that states the exact amount of time they have to pay you back and any interest they’ll owe.

    Kelly Anne Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

    This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.

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