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How To Set Up A Credit Freeze

MoneyTips

If you have been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft, you have several courses of action to limit the damage and add a layer of protection to your account, including a credit freeze. But what is a credit freeze, and what are the pros and cons of applying one? In simple terms, a credit freeze cuts off access to your credit report to new creditors. (Existing creditors and their debt collectors, as well as government agencies, can still access your file.). If identity thieves try to open fraudulent accounts in your name, the creditor will be unable to pull your file and will be far less likely be able to approve the new account. A credit freeze does not affect your current credit card accounts — you can use them as you normally would. However, when you legitimately want to open a new account for yourself or give a creditor access to your information, you will need to lift the credi...

PenFed's New Cash-Back Credit Card: Should You Apply?

There’s a new 1.5% cash back credit card in town — actually make that 2% cash back, in some cases.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union (affectionately known as PenFed) recently launched its Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature Card. The card is available to all PenFed members and offers additional cash-back perks for military members and other eligible customers. There are also a few enticing bonus offers.

Wait … What’s PenFed? 

PenFed is a credit union that provides banking, loans and other financial services to more than 1.5 million members that serve the United States. Their member base primarily consists of current and former military members, government employees, military-related organizations and the families of eligible members.

To get a PenFed credit card, you must be a current or eligible PenFed member (if you aren’t a member, you can become one when you apply for a credit card). To be eligible, you must be an active or former member of the U.S. military, an employee of the U.S. government, a member of a qualifying organization (such as Voices for America’s Troops) or have an eligible member in your family.

How Does the New PenFed Card Work?  

The Power Cash Rewards card is appealing, in part, due to its simplicity. There are no spending categories or confusing restrictions. Cardholders get an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase.

Plus, with the PenFed Honors Advantage Program, qualifying cardholders also get an additional 0.5% cash back for a total of 2% unlimited cash back. To qualify, you must be a current or former U.S. military member or have a PenFed Access America Checking account (you can open a new account when you apply to get the additional 0.5% cash back).

Cash back can be redeemed in the form of statement credits or account deposits.

Right now, PenFed is offering a bonus $100 in statement credits when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days of the card. There are no foreign transaction fees.

Standard features such as mobile pay options and card security are also included.

What Are the Card’s Costs?

The Power Cash Rewards card has no annual fee. The annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases is a variable 9.24% to 17.99%, depending on creditworthiness. That is a great potential rate for customers who can qualify on the lower end of that range. (You can get an idea of where you might fall by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

PenFed is also currently offering a 12-month 0% APR for all balance transfers (they will apply a 3% fee to each transfer). After 12 months, any remaining balance or new balance transfer will receive a variable 9.24% to 17.99% APR.

Why Should You Apply?

If you’re already a PenFed member (or you’re eligible to become one) and you’re looking for a cash-back credit card, you might be hard pressed to find a better option. PenFed’s cash-back card is simple and has no complicated features. Customers with good-to-excellent credit could potentially qualify for a very attractive interest rate, and there’s also no annual fee. Many other cash-back cards have higher interest rates or annual fees.

If you qualify for the 2% unlimited cash back rewards, you’ll particularly have trouble finding a better offer. Most other cash back cards don’t offer unlimited 2% cash back on all purchases with the Citi Double Cash card being one of the notable exceptions — full review of that credit card right here.

If you’re in need of both a credit card and a credit union, it might also be worth an application. PenFed offers many other services, including banking, student loan financing, mortgages and personal loans.

Also, generally, cash-back credit cards are excellent options for people who pay their credit card balances in full each month. That way, you maximize the cash back and won’t end up putting it toward interest.

Why Shouldn’t You Apply?

If you already have a good cash-back card or you’re shopping around, you should carefully measure PenFed’s cash-back rewards against the alternatives. Many cards offer larger cash-back rewards on certain spending categories (like gas or groceries) and could also offer different introductory rewards.

Plus, as we intimated earlier, cash-back rewards may not be the best option if you tend to carry a balance from month to month. Any cash rewards you earn could be limited or erased entirely once you factor in interest. In other words, if you carry a balance frequently and/or the allure of cash back will entice you to overspend, you’d be better off with a straightforward low-interest credit card. Finally, if you’re not interested in becoming a PenFed member, or you don’t qualify to become a member, there’s no use in applying.

Remember, active-duty and retired military members have some solid credit card options that civilians don’t. You can find a full guide to picking a military credit card here.

 

 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

How to Earn Extra Income From Your Car (Without Playing Chauffeur)

Most people by now have heard of the ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft, which have disrupted the taxi industry as we know it, allowing people to make money with their cars.

Far fewer, however, have heard of Turo or Getaround.

If earning extra income with your car, without having to chauffeur strangers, interests you, perhaps it’s time to familiarize yourself with these names.

Both Turo and Getaround were launched with the mission of putting the world’s one billion cars to better use. Yes, you read that right — there are at least one billion cars on the planet, many of which remain idle. Therein lies the opportunity.

Turo and Getaround allow people to make some serious cash by renting out their cars.

How much cash, exactly? Turo spokesman Steve Webb says the average active car owner on the site made $653 in Dec. 2016. Getaround, meanwhile, reports that the average monthly earnings for its users is around $550.

“It’s amazing to think of any asset, especially one costing tens of thousands of dollars, being so idle,” says Webb. “We have been able to flip the car ownership equation on its head, providing people a means to better use this asset.”

Want in on the action? Here’s what you need to know.

Turo

Turo has a presence in 4,500 cities in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

Here’s how it works. You list your car for rent on Turo for free. You can set your daily minimum rental price and choose a mileage limit for drivers. Turo can also set your car’s rental price, based on market value, location, time of year, and other data designed to boost your listing’s competitiveness.

In addition, Turo covers your vehicle with $1 million in liability insurance while it’s being rented. To give you further peace of mind, Turo screens all its renters. The renter can either pick the car up at your home, or you can deliver it to an agreed-upon location.

People renting their cars through Turo earn enough to cover their monthly car payment, says Webb.

Getaround

Getaround has a somewhat smaller footprint than Turo. It operates in six cities, including San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

In each city, Getaround has a core operating area, where your car must be parked. If you live outside Getaround’s operating zone, the vehicle can still be shared if it remains parked in the active area. To facilitate this, Getaround often helps owners find discounted parking in high-traffic locations.

Getaround renters are able to unlock your car using an app, however, you have full control over their car’s daily and hourly rental rate. Getaround can also set a recommended rate when you first launch your rental, based on the car’s make and model, features and location. Also, your car is covered with $1 million in insurance when being rented through Getaround. Renters are screened by the company.

The big difference between Getaround and Turo is that Getaround allows renters to use your car for just a few hours. With Turo, the minimum rental time is one day. When renting your car through Getaround, the vehicle must always be parked in the company’s core operating area, instead of, say, in your driveway, where you could keep an eye on it.

If these differences don’t matter to you, the earning potential may be nothing to sneeze at.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

6 Travel Apps That Can Help You Have the Best Vacation Ever

There’s a lot that goes into traveling, from choosing and saving up for travel expenses to deciding what you need to bring with you. Thankfully, there are a plethora of apps on the market to help simplify the process and make your vacation exactly what it should be: relaxing.

Here are six of those apps.

1. Travel Planning: TripIt

Platforms: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows

No longer do you have to store your flight plans in a different spot than your hotel and restaurant reservations — with TripIt, you’ll have all your travel plans in one place. And all these details will automatically sync to your calendars, making everything about your travel easier, whether for business or pleasure. With TripIt Pro, you can add additional features — like notifications for when a better seat or alternate flights are available or the ability to store your reward program points in the app — for $49 a year.

2. Helping You Save: Unsplurge

Platforms: iOS

There are several apps on the market to help you budget, but Unsplurge is a great one to help you focus on saving for a specific item or event. You can upload a photo of your dream destination to help you stay motivated and track your savings toward your goal. The app also offers savings tips to help you achieve your goal. If you decide to put your trip on a low-interest credit card, for example, you can tell this app that your goal is to get your card paid off sooner so you can have a stress-free vacation. (In the meantime, you can keep an eye on how that balance is affecting your credit by viewing your free credit report snapshot, along with two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) 

3. Tracking (& Using) Rewards: AwardWallet

Platforms: iOS, Android

If you’re part of several different travel loyalty programs, AwardWallet can make keeping track of those perks easier for you. After all, you don’t want to miss out on using those hard-earned rewards. You may also want to see if you can add to these perks with some of the plastic in your wallet. These stellar credit cards for international travel, for instance, can help you rack up extra points or miles. 

4. Figuring Out What to Bring: PackPoint

Platforms: iOS, Android

Packing for vacation is probably one of the worst parts, but this app can help simplify the process for you. PackPoint checks the weather at your destination so you know what you’ll need to bring. You can also tell it what you plan to do on your trip and receive recommendations on how to pack accordingly. Bonus: PackPoint has its own free travel podcast you can enjoy and garner smart travel insights from.

5. Exploring Your Destination: Time Out

Platforms: iOS, Android

You’ll certainly want to discover the best things your destination has to offer once you arrive, and this app can help you do that. Featuring big cities from all over the world, Time Out can give you suggestions on places to dine, grab drinks or even events to attend while you’re in town. And if you’re out and discover something you’d like to share with other travelers, you can do so right on the app. 

6. Understanding Different Rates: Units Plus

Platforms: iOS, Android

This is great for those trips you take abroad so you understand currency differences, which can help make purchases (and tipping) easier, but it doesn’t end there. If you’re somewhere with different metrics of speed, weight, temperature or almost anything else, this app can convert the unit for you. Best of all: The app frequently updates, so the exchange rate stays very current.

Longing for the day your bank account can fund that dream vacation? We’ve got 28 (mostly) pain-free ways to save for your next big adventure.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly. Related Articles

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Want to Pause Your Student Loan Payments? Here's What You Need to Know

If you’re struggling with a medical emergency, unemployment or other financial crisis, making your student loan payments can be impossible. Rather than fall behind, you can opt to put your payments on hold through student loan deferment or forbearance.

Deferment is an option that lets you postpone both your principal and interest payments. If you qualify, you can pause payments for up to three years. Forbearance is more temporary — you can postpone or reduce your monthly payments for up to 12 months.

However, delaying your payments through deferment or forbearance can have serious financial repercussions. Depending on the type of loans you have, your loan balance can continue to grow due to interest and other fees.

Choosing Deferment or Forbearance

Below, find out how your loan type affects deferment and forbearance, and what alternatives you may have.

Deferring Federal Loans

With certain federal loans, you don’t have to worry about interest payments if you enter deferment.

If you have federal Perkins loans, Direct subsidized loans or subsidized Stafford loans, the government will cover the interest that accrues on your loans while your loans are in deferment. With your interest taken care of while you get back on your feet, you will have less to pay back in interest.

If you have unsubsidized federal loans or PLUS loans, the government will not pay for the interest that accrues during deferment. If you defer your loans, they will continue to gain interest, possibly causing your balance to balloon and costing you thousands. Not to mention your debt-to-income ratio will get worse, making it more difficult to qualify for new credit such as a mortgage or car loan. (Not sure where your credit stands? You can view two of your scores, with updates every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

Before entering deferment, use a student loan deferment calculator to find out how much interest will accrue on your student loans if you postpone your payments.

Federal Loans and Forbearance

Unlike deferment, your federal loans will continue to accrue interest in forbearance, regardless of the loan type. Because interest continues to build, entering forbearance can be costly, but it’s still better than missing payments and defaulting on your loans.

Is Deferment/Forbearance Available on Private Loans?

Technically, deferment and forbearance are federal loan benefits. Not all private loan servicers offer similar options — but some do. For example, SoFi offers deferment for students who are going back to school. And if you’re facing a financial difficulty, you may be able to enter forbearance for up to a year.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship, it’s worth asking your servicer if deferment or forbearance is an option. Just keep in mind that entering deferment or forbearance with private loans can be more expensive than federal loans. There are often fees you have to pay, and interest will accrue while you postpone your payments.

Alternatives to Deferment or Forbearance

If you want to avoid pausing your student loan payments completely, there are other ways to manage payments when they’re too high:

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

If you have federal student loans, you may be eligible for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. There are four IDR plans available today: income-based repayment (IBR), income-contingent repayment (ICR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE).

Under each plan, the basics are about the same: The federal government extends your repayment term 20 to 25 years and caps your monthly payment at a percentage of your discretionary income. At the end of the term, your remaining balance (if any) is discharged. You still have to pay income taxes on the forgiven amount, however.

Enrolling in an IDR plan can drastically reduce your payments and give your budget more breathing room. Depending on your income and family situation, you may qualify for a payment as low as $0 per month.

Refinancing

Unfortunately, if you have private loans, your options are more limited. But one effective way to reduce your monthly payments is to refinance your debt. By refinancing, you take out a new loan that pays off your old private loans. Your new loan will have completely new terms, including — ideally — a lower interest rate.

Refinancing private loans can help lower your payments and help you pay less in interest over time. It’s a smart way to save money while giving yourself more room in your budget. Be sure to keep in mind that if you refinance federal student loans with a private lender, however, you forfeit federal protections such as IDR and deferment/forbearance eligibility.

Deciding What to Do in a Hardship

Student loan forbearance and deferment are useful options when you experience a financial hardship. If you’re facing an emergency and can’t keep up with your payments, deferment or forbearance can give you a much-needed break while you get back on your feet.

While entering deferment or forbearance is a much wiser option than defaulting on your debt, there are still consequences. Make sure you understand the financial impact of postponing your payments, as putting them off can add thousands to your student loan balance. And in the case of private loans, postponing may not be an option at all.

If you’re struggling to keep up with your loans, the most important thing is to be proactive and talk directly with your servicer to find out what options are available to you.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

5 New Starwood Hotels You Can Visit for Free

As we move into spring break season, a lot of you may have vacation plans. If not, then it might be time to start planning a trip. Deciding where to go can be the hardest part of all, as your bucket list of locations may be pretty long. However, if you have credit card rewards, your travel plans will probably be made based on your points and rewards. (You may also consider these 28 ways to save for this years big adventure.)

If you have a large balance of Starwood Points, you might want to consider one of these five Starwood properties that have recently opened around the world. Take a look.

1. Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel

Located in California’s Napa Valley, this new Luxury Collection hotel is perfect for any wine lover. Most of the hotels’ rooms come with spacious balconies overlooking the vineyards. When not taking advantage of the complementary shuttle, you can indulge yourself at the hotels’ luxury spa. Or you might choose to dine at The Acacia House, the restaurant by Top Chef alum Chris Cosentino.

This is a Category seven property, so it will set you back 30,000 to 35,000 points a night.

2. W Las Vegas

If Las Vegas is more your scene, make sure you check out the new W Las Vegas. Located on the northern end of the Strip, you will find this new property in one of the SLS towers. You will have access to seven different restaurants as well as three entertainment venues and a bar to wind down with a drink. If you want to get out and explore the Las Vegas area, Enterprise Rent-a-Car service is available.

The W Las Vegas is a Category five property, so it will cost 12,000 to 16,000 points a night.

3. Le Méridien Visconti Rome

If you are looking to get out of the U.S., then Rome might be the perfect place to visit this year. This new Starwood property is located in a prime location near the Vatican. If you have ever been to Rome, then you know that most of the city’s hotels were decorated with the renaissance style in mind. The Le Méridien Visconti Rome chose to do things a little differently, going for a sleek contemporary look. Not only does this hotel have the perfect location, you will enjoy its rooftop terrace while you relax after a long day of sightseeing.

The Le Méridien Visconti Rome is a Category five property, meaning rooms cost 12,000 to 16,000 points a night.

4. The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club

Polo is one of the most popular sports in the United Arab Emirates, and this property sits on a massive equestrian complex. In fact, the St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is host to the Dubai Polo Gold Cup.

The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club is a Category six property, so rooms will cost 20,000 to 25,000 points a night.

5. Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin

If you are looking to hit the slopes this spring, you might want to check out the Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin. This chalet-style hotel, situated near Montenegro’s northern city, Kolašin, feels just like you are in the Rocky Mountains or Swiss Alps. And it has the services you require. You will find two on-site restaurants, a rental car counter, and a spa where you can relax after a long day on the slopes.

The Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin is a Category four hotel, which means rooms will cost 10,000 points a night.

How to Earn Starwood Points With Your Credit Card

The easiest way to earn Starwood points fast is by using the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. When you sign up for this card, you will earn up to 35,000 points. You will earn 25,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You will then earn an additional 10,000 points after spending another $2,000 in the first six months. (This offer expires April 5, 2017.)

When you use the card at Starwood properties, you can earn up to five points. You can also earn two points when you use the card at participating Marriott properties. All other purchases with the card will earn one point. As a cardholder, you will receive a credit for two stays and five nights that count toward SPG Elite status. (You can read more about this card in our American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Card review.)

You can choose to redeem your points at any of the 1,000+ Starwood properties, including the five mentioned above. You can also choose to transfer your points to one of many different airlines. When you do this, you will receive a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer. This card has an annual fee of $95 that’s waived the first year. It carries a variable APR of 15.74% to 19.74%, based on your creditworthiness. (Not sure where your credit stands? You can view two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

Note: Marriott bought Starwood hotels last year — You can go here to read about how this will impact your credit card rewards.

How to Earn Starwood Points for Your Business

If you are a business owner, then you will have even more options for earning Starwood points. In addition to the personal credit card, you will also be able to get the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express. With this card, you will have the chance to earn 35,000 points. You will receive 25,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. You will then earn another 10,000 points after spending an additional $3,000 in the first six months. (This offer ends April 5, 2017.)

With this card, you will be able to earn Starwood points the same way you can with the personal card. The business card also comes with a few extra benefits. You will receive unlimited complimentary Wi-Fi at any Boingo hotspot, and you will receive access to Sheraton Club lounges. The Starwood Preferred Guest Business card has a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. Its variable APR is 15.74%, 17.74% or 19.74% based on your creditworthiness when you apply.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

15 Ways to Save at Bed Bath & Beyond

If you’ve ever walked into Bed Bath & Beyond with five items on your to-get list and walked out with 20 purchases, you’re not alone. Luckily there are plenty of ways to save at this home goods mega-store. Here are 15.

1. Subscribe to Its Emails

Sign up to receive emails from BB&B and you’ll get 20% off one in-store purchase right away, plus plenty more exclusive offers and promotions directly to your inbox on a regular basis.

2. Provide the Store With Your Address

Emails usually come every week or two from BB&B with coupon offers, but if you provide your address you’ll receive offers through snail mail as well. While some of these coupons come with expiration dates printed on them, the store usually accepts coupons past those dates.

3. Stack Multiple Coupons

While most coupons say they’re good for only one purchase (although every now and then you might be lucky enough to get a 20% off your entire purchase option), you can stack your coupons by making multiple purchases, especially if they’re done online (just make sure you qualify for free shipping on your orders, otherwise it doesn’t make much sense to do this).

4. Shop Competitors for Better Offers

Bed Bath & Beyond will match any direct competitor’s price for identical items, as long as they meet these conditions.

5. Use Price-Matching & a Coupon

While it’s not always available, if the competitor with the better price would allow you to apply a coupon as well, Bed Bath & Beyond will allow you to do the same. Otherwise, they apply the best discount — either the coupon or the price-match option.

6. Get a Manufacturer’s Coupon

BB&B also accepts manufacturer’s coupons at their stores, plus you can

7. Cash in on a Manufacturer’s Coupon & a Price Match

Double your savings by doing some research for better prices at a competing store, and then find a manufacturer’s coupon for the item and BB&B will let you use both. (Remember, this must be a manufacturer’s coupon, not a competitor’s coupon.)

8. Hold on to Receipts to Cash in on Coupons Later

Save those receipts for your recently purchased items at BB&B. If you receive a coupon a couple days later, the store will still honor the discount.

9. Ask for Price Adjustments on Sale Items

Even if you don’t get a coupon in the mail, if an item you just purchased goes on sale, bring the item and your receipt in for a price adjustment.

10. Get a Bed Bath & Beyond Credit Card

The brand’s MasterCard gives frequent shoppers 5% back for every $1 spent at its stores, 2% back per $1spent on gas and groceries and 1% back anywhere else. Just be sure to pay your balances off in full; otherwise, you’ll be paying a variable purchase annual percentage rate (APR) of 24.49%, 18.49%, or 14.49%, depending on your creditworthiness. (You can get a sense of where you would fall by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

Frequent another retailer? Check out our picks for the best shopping credit cards.

11. Get Cash Back

Use sites like Shop at Home to receive cash back on your purchases at Bed Bath & Beyond. (The site has coupon offers, as well.)

12. Check Out the Clearance Section

It’s obvious but worth repeating — don’t forget to shop the clearance section, especially if you’re looking for a particular type of item rather than an actual item (i.e. coffee makers rather than Hamilton Beach coffee makers). The BB&B clearance section has hundreds of items on sale, sometimes at more than half off. Experts say looking early in the week is best, too, because that tends to be when new inventory is available.

13. Wait for Additional Deals to Come via Email

Besides their awesome 20% coupons, BB&B is also known for sending exclusive deals to their email users that might help you save even more. For example, “Any 2 for $10 [regularly $9.99 each] on Taste & Co. Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegars” is sitting in my inbox right now. This is a great way to stock up on gifts for future use.

14. Score Gift Cards Directly From the Store

Besides coupons, clearance items and price matching, BB&B has also been known to provide shopping incentives to their customers by offering gifts cards with your purchases. These gift cards usually don’t expire, so they’re a great way to save. If you haven’t seen a gift card from BB&B lately, you could always do the following instead …

15. Buy Cheap Gift Cards Online

Use sites like Cardpool.com and Gift Card Granny to purchase gift cards for BB&B at less than face value. Keep in mind that most are eGift cards for online use only, and they sometimes take a day or two to arrive.

Want more brand hacks? Check out our roundup of 7 ways to save at Home Depot.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly. Related Articles

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Family Christian closing all stores nationwide

Christian faith-based book and gift store Family Christian is closing all of its 240 stores nationwide due to "declining sales," according to a Thursday news release from the company.

The closure affects employees in 36 states, including Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

>> Read more trending stories

Company President Chuck Bengochea said in the release that the company had two difficult years post-bankruptcy.

"Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline.  In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market. We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God’s plan for our organization, and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse," Bengochea said.

The nonprofit chain employed more than 3,000 people and sold Christian merchandise, memorabilia and literature.

"We are grateful for all of the millions of lives that have been impacted thanks to our guests' and employees' heart for bringing the light of Jesus to the darkest corners of our world," Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development Steve Biondo said in the release. "Through their efforts there is no question we have transformed lives now and for eternity."

On its website, Family Christian said all merchandise is now being sold for up to 30 percent off.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Capital Gains Taxes

When you turn a profit on the sale of assets, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds or real estate, it’s called a capital gain. It’s generally considered taxable income.

In most cases, however, the tax rate on capital gains is lower than the rate on your regular income. In some cases, you might not owe any taxes on your capital gains. The exact capital gains tax rate you’ll pay depends primarily on two things: how long you hold the asset before selling, and your income.

Two types of capital gains

The tax code divides capital gains into two types: long-term and short-term. When you make a profit on the sale of an asset you’ve held for one year or less, that’s defined as a short-term gain. A long-term capital gain comes from a profitable sale of an asset that you’ve held for more than one year.

In this case, tax law rewards patient investors. The tax rate on a long-term gain is lower than what you pay on your ordinary income, such as wages. Short-term gains, on the other hand, are taxed at your ordinary tax rate. (Not sure about your tax rate? Review this rundown on federal tax brackets.)

To ensure your gain is the long-term type, pay close attention to the calendar when selling your assets. The holding period for a long-term capital gain is at least one year and a day. To reach that mark, begin counting on the date after the day you acquired the asset.

For example, if you bought stock on Jan. 10, 2017, and sell on the 10th day of the following January, your one-year ownership of the stock would mean your profit would be taxed at the higher short-term rate.

If you instead sell on Jan. 11, 2018 — 366 days since your purchase, since the day you dispose of the property is part of your holding period — it will net you the lower long-term capital gains tax rate.

How income affects capital gains taxes

Capital gains tax rates, like income tax rates, are progressive. That means higher earners generally pay a higher capital gains tax rate.

When a gain is short-term, it is taxed at the exact same rate as your ordinary income. A long-term gain, however, can be taxed at 15%, 20% or not taxed at all depending on your regular income tax bracket.

The 20% capital gains tax rate applies to taxpayers whose earnings put them in the highest federal income tax bracket (39.6%). You’ll pay a 15% long-term capital gains tax rate if you’re in the next four lower tax brackets: 35%, 33%, 28% and 25%.

And if your income falls into the two lowest tax brackets — 10% and 15% — some or all of your capital gains may not be taxed at all.

Other capital gains tax rates

The capital gains tax rates described above apply in most scenarios, but there are a few other rates for special investment situations:

  • You’ll face a capital gains rate of 25% when you make a profit on the sale of any real estate for which you have claimed a depreciation allowance.
  • The taxable part of a gain from selling certain small-business stock is taxed at a maximum 28% rate.
  • If you sell a collectible, such as rare coins or art, your profit is taxed at 28%.
Additional cautions for the wealthy

Also be aware of the Net Investment Income Tax, or NIIT.

Technically, this is not a capital gains tax, but if your profit on asset sales is substantial, you could find yourself facing this surtax.

The NIIT is an additional 3.8% tax that applies to individuals, estates and trusts with net investment income that exceeds certain thresholds. It was created to help pay for the Affordable Care Act.

The calculations can get tricky, so it’s best to use a tax software program or consult a tax professional if you’re confronted with this tax. But note that the NIIT typically kicks in when an individual taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income (which is your adjusted gross income with some tax breaks added back) is more than:

  • $250,000 for married filing jointly or a qualifying widow/widower with a dependent child
  • $125,000 for spouses filing separately
  • $200,000 for all other filing statuses
Only sales count

Finally, note that increases in the value of assets you still hold do not trigger any capital gains taxes. Capital gains taxes apply only when you have an actual profit from the sale of an asset.

So don’t worry about owing taxes immediately as you watch your portfolio increase in value. Just make sure that when you do cash in some of those holdings, you do so in a way that guarantees the lowest possible capital gains tax rate. You can learn more about current rates in this roundup of capital gains tax rates.

11 Ways to Get the Lowest Mortgage Refinance Rate

In the hunt for the lowest mortgage refinance rate, there are some things you can control and some you can’t. Rates moving up just when you’re about to refi? Can’t control that.

But there are at least 11 things you can do to get the best mortgage refinance rate.

Get the credit you deserve

The best way to earn the lowest rate on a mortgage refinance is to knock out the dents in your credit score and polish it up. Some steps can be as simple as making timely payments on your existing debt and perhaps paying down some balances. Other moves, like these three, take a bit more effort:

1. Look for errors in your credit report

“The other day, I ran credit for someone who had a state tax lien and a charge-off,” says Mary Anne Daly, senior mortgage advisor for Sindeo. “They said, ‘This isn’t mine. I don’t know anything about this.'” Daly says credit report errors happen more often than you might imagine.

Daly also cites clients who had a 623 credit score. Their credit report had mistakes, and the customers wondered if the improvement in their score would be worth all the effort to correct them. By wiping the errors from their history, their credit score improved to 660, and the borrowers saved $95 a month on their home loan.

2. Keep credit card balances below 25% of your available credit

Daly also says to consider asking your credit card providers to increase your available credit. Using a smaller percentage of your available credit lowers your credit utilization ratio and can earn you a better interest rate.

3. Don’t quit using consumer credit

Paying off consumer credit can be liberating, but continue making small purchases on your credit cards from time to time. Even if you pay the balances off each month, it shows you manage debt responsibly, which can actually improve your credit score, she adds.

Choosing the right refi loan

Another way to get the best refinance rate is to select the right loan product:

4. Be wary of “no-cost loans”

“That always tickles me,” Daly says of such loan gimmicks. “There are no free lunches.” All lenders will charge fees, whether they are paid upfront, rolled into the loan balance or built into the loan’s interest rate.

In fact, Joe Burke, a loan officer with Guaranteed Rate in Chicago, says paying closing costs out of pocket can lower your interest rate.

5. Resist the urge to take cash out

A cash-out refinance will raise your interest rate, Daly says.

6. Consider a shorter loan term

Burke notes that expanding your loan term may not be in your best interest.

“If you’ve already paid seven years into a 30-year fixed, for instance, putting you into a new 30-year fixed may not be the best financial decision,” he says.

Moving from a 30-year mortgage to a 20-year or even a 15-year term can earn you a lower mortgage interest rate.

“A lot of people don’t know that,” Daly adds. She tells of customers who were considering several options on a mortgage. They had 10 years left on their loan, and they thought it wouldn’t make sense to refinance. Daly showed them that refinancing to a 10-year loan term with a lower mortgage rate would save $45,000 in interest, without significantly changing their monthly payments.

“They were just thrilled,” Daly says, “paying a little bit more [each month] but saving all of that money.”

» MORE: Calculate your refinance savings

Time is money

And there are occasions when saving money can be a matter of good timing:

7. Huddle with your loan officer about when to lock in your refi rate

“Sometimes, believe it or not, we have a little bit of a crystal ball” about how mortgage rates may behave in the very short term, Daly says. That can be tied to major economic news, policy announcements or government reports.

8. Respond quickly to document and information requests

Quick answers can save you the cost of paying for an extended rate lock period if the paperwork process bogs down. It might even be a good idea to stay available and in town during a refi, Daly adds.

9. Consider the future

“One of the questions that we’re always asking people is, ‘How long do you plan on staying in the home?’” Burke says. “I think that’s a very important question that a lot of people don’t ask.”

For example, if you know you are going to be selling your home in five to 10 years, an adjustable rate mortgage, with an introductory rate lower than that of a fixed-rate loan, may be the right choice, Daly adds.

You have to apply yourself

And finally, snagging the best refinance rate takes finding the right lender and the right mortgage professional:

10. Shop rates —  and know what they mean

Advertised rates that seem unusually low may have discount points built in — that’s when you pay upfront to get a lower interest rate. For the lender, factoring in discount points may be a ploy to drive business, but for borrowers, the points can be a part of a loan strategy.

“Most of the time, we find that the buy-down doesn’t make sense,” Daly says. To see if discount points work in your situation, consider your monthly payment savings against how long it will take to recoup the fees — and how long you expect to stay in a home.

Burke says borrowers often fixate on a low rate but miss important details in loan terms disclosed in the fine print.

“Looking at APR is absolutely one of the best ways to go,” he says. The stated annual percentage rate of a loan includes the interest rate you’ll pay on the loan, plus all fees. You’ll have to complete an application with each lender you’re considering to get all the information that impacts your offered APR.

11. Find a savvy mortgage pro

That means “making sure you’re working with somebody that’s reputable and isn’t just hanging teaser rates out there for you,” Burke says.

And you want a knowledgeable loan professional who’s willing to help you find your best rate. As an example, Daly points to government-backed loan programs that are offered in some regions.

“The mortgage professional has to know to look for that,” she adds. Daly says she’s had clients who would have ended up with a higher mortgage interest rate if their loans hadn’t been flagged as being in an eligible area for one of these programs.

Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: hal@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick.

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