Friday, January 24, 2020

Are Credit Cards The Best Finance Solutions?

Whether you're just starting out or you've been here for a while, you've probably received a "Pre-Approved Credit Card" envelope in your mailbox or you were at your favorite store when the cashier says, 'Oh, you could save 25% off of your total today if you apply and get approved for our store card!" I've been there. A million times it seems and yes, it is so very hard to not give in and take the usually very hefty discount and start collecting 10,000 points to receive a rewards gift card to use on my next purchase! I have turned many down but when it comes to a shop I actually buy from, even if just for a big purchase once a year, I will take it! But, is this a smart move? That all depends on you and how much you can handle. It can turn into an extremely dangerous game if you fall into the traps.

Are Rewards Cards Worth It? 

They sure are! OK. Well, they sure are IF you will actually use the rewards and the rewards don't require you to spend a fortune just to collect a measly $10 gift card. They also aren't too worth it if you have to pay an annual fee . Especially when the annual fee ends up costing more than what your reward redemptions are. 

If you have the time to spend on your credit cards each month or even each week and you aren't going to go crazy shopping until you've used up your credit limits, you could be taking advantage of some very serious rewards and getting the most bang for your buck! This will require checking in with your accounts and reading the fine print. Lots of fine print. It's probably a wise idea to be able to understand the fine print too. 

Card A is offering no interest for the first 12 months AND they are offering double rewards points for your purchases. Besides that, you just saved $150 on your very first purchase because you opened this account. But, your interest rate will be 24% after your introductory period. If you don't use it again until today's shopping trip is paid in full and you pay the balance off before your 12 months expires, you could earn an additional $100 in gift cards for this retailer. Not to mention, having the extra available credit sure would bump your credit score up a few points! So far, everything sounds great! You just need to have self-discipline and be sure to stick with your original plan. It's OK to maybe use it a few more times just to gather another $50 rewards card just as long as you can still cover that balance before the 12 months period is up. (If you can't afford to cover the full balance, your card will charge you interest on the original balance and all at once. This could lead to even bigger problems. It could end up putting you over your credit limit.

Card B features the same, no interest for 12 months (again if you do not pay your balance off in full by the due date, they will pile all of the interest from the entire 12 months for the entire balance onto your bill.) There is also an annual fee of $39 unless you spend $1000 a year and reach their "Platinum" rewards level. You just have to be cautious when reading the fine print that comes along with your card. They will tell you about the highlights of their program but it is up to you to find out that you have to spend a certain amount each year before you get the ultimate rewards points and the extra free gift on your birthday and anything else they throw in there to make it sound good. Depending on how often you will use the card and how often you already shop there, you might want to skip this card or you might want to go ahead and accept it so you can take advantage of the initial savings but pay it off and send it back afterward.

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have? 

This is entirely up to you. It all depends on how much you can handle and how much time you have to be sure your bills are paid on time each month and you are reading everything that is on your contract. If you're well versed on credit cards and are quite savvy (and responsible!)  when it comes to getting cash back from your online shopping, earning rewards, not paying interest or paying minimal interest, and you aren't going to go nuts and spend to your limits and only pay the minimum, go for it! You still need to be careful because applying for too many credit cards or having too high of a balance could end up damaging your credit score

Everyone's situation is different but one thing is for sure, applying for too much credit at once could make you appear to be a "risky" borrower. Along with having too many "hard inquiries" on your credit, banks may turn you away because you seem too desperate since you just applied for 8 lines of credit. One credit card application usually results in about 5 points being removed from your score. Typically, you'll have those few points back in about 6 months as long as everything else goes well. If you're planning on house shopping or even car shopping, those few points could affect you so you may want to plan and schedule applications responsibly. 

Credit card debt affects 30% of your FICO score so you will want to keep those balances down. Most experts recommend using only 10% (max) of your available credit. Having credit available to you helps your credit score and will show lenders that you are a responsible borrower. 

If you're not a fan of credit cards but would like to build your credit up so you have more options in the future when buying a home or another big purchase, you should at least apply for 2 credit cards. Ideally from 2 different networks. Make the most of it by researching the best rewards plans that best suit your lifestyle! I don't personally fly so I never bother with any sort of card that offers airline miles. There are so many perks and bonuses tacked onto credit cards it can seem overwhelming when looking for the best option but, it's well worth it to find rewards you would actually use. 

Life happens and sometimes no matter how responsible we are and how excellent our credit is, things can happen that are completely out of your control. It happens to almost everyone at least once (some of us more than once!) Of course it's always best to make sure you can pay for what you're spending and always make your payments on time and even try to pay more than the minimum each month. (There do seem to be disagreements as to whether it's best to keep paying your balance in full each month or paying just more than the minimum. I believe this is also a personal preference. I usually opt to pay double the minimum for most of my cards.) But don't be so hard on yourself if you hit a rough spot. There are options and finance solutions. Just keep your head up and plan on bouncing back as soon as you can!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Allergic In A World Full Of Dogs

Dogs seem to be everywhere people are nowadays and while dog lovers are thrilled to have their best friends along with them everywhere they go, allergy sufferers tend to have a hard time finding any actual “dog free” zones. There are restaurants, campgrounds, even hotels who will accommodate dogs but, where do people go if they can’t bear to be near them? Of course, service dogs are extremely important and it’s great they are accepted in so many places. People who rely on them deserve to go about their day to day lives and they should be able to come and go freely. But what do people do who can’t breathe around them? Worse yet, what would someone do who would require a service dog and is allergic to their own service dog at the same time? I imagine allergy medicine or a series of shots would have to suffice. But, do we just take allergy medicine every day before we head out just in case we run into a dog?

It’s almost a taboo subject considering you can’t find too much online about this topic. When I search for dog allergies and phrases such as “Can dogs and dog allergies make me sick?” the majority of the search results are about dogs who have allergies and dogs that are sick. It seems you have to dig and dig to even find any kind of help or possible tips on relief! Premier Allery & Asthma has a great blog with lots of advice for people with peanut allergies, cat allergies, even sesame allergies.

You may have heard the phrase, “But, people can’t be allergic to dog hair!” or they may have tried to explain that there are breeds of dogs that nobody is allergic to. (Hypoallergenic dogs!) But that’s not entirely true. Besides the fact that the majority of allergy sufferers actually have a problem with dander than they do dog hair, the real source of allergies is often a protein that is in the saliva or urine of cats and dogs. This protein sticks to the dead, dried flakes, which is dander. So, while you may be able to find a hotel advertised as having “allergy-free rooms” not only will you most likely pay a lot more money for your room, if it’s a hotel that regularly accepts dogs in other sections of the hotel, there could still be dander floating around.

Oh yes, and as for these magical hypoallergenic dogs, they simply do not exist. Your friends might tell you absolutely cannot be allergic to their dog or you could have a dog of your own if you spend the money on one of these mythical creatures. It’s just not how it works. Sure, there are some dogs that are often advertised as being “hypoallergenic” but this is typically only because they don’t shed as often as other dogs. Could someone who is allergic to dogs still have a dog for a pet? Sure thing! This will require some potential changes in your home but people do successfully keep a pet or bring a new pet into their home even when they’re sneezing and rubbing their eyes. (Allergies can also cause dry, itchy skin and quite a few other concerns. People with allergies have oversensitive immune systems so there are several ways our bodies can react to what it thinks is a virus or bacteria.)

First, if you haven’t already had an allergy test to determine the actual underlying issue, you could contact Premier Allergy & Asthma and schedule a consultation. (If there isn’t a location close to you, you can find a local allergy specialist or clinic in your area.) If you find that you are indeed allergic to your furry friend, there are a few ways to help manage the dander in your home. Your doctor will be able to help with any suggestions and you can also start here:

I'm allergic but I refuse to give up my pet!

1) Keep your pet out of your bedroom and other rooms you spend a lot of time in.

2) Keep your pet outside a little extra but only when weather permits!

3) Remove your carpet and choose some nice hardwood flooring. If you must keep your carpet, start stocking up on carpet cleaner because you should do this frequently.

4) Bathe your pet weekly.

5) Room air cleaners with HEPA filters can help remove dander from the air.

6) Plastic mattress covers could help at least keep dander out of beds.

7) Frequent vacuuming may actually be worse than you think. Your vacuum may cause the dander to fly around the air for quite a while longer which could cause allergy symptoms to be worse. You could go the extra mile and grab a newer vacuum with a HEPA filter but, this could still cause a cloud of dander to float around the air.