Tag Archives: Credit Cards

What’s Your Favorite No-Annual-Fee Credit Card?

We’ve asked our readers about their favorite travel rewards credit cards in the past, and if you’re willing to pay the annual fees, these cards can provide a ton of value. But no-fee cash back cards should have a place in your wallet as well, so we want to hear your recommendations. Any credit card with no annual fee…

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The SPG Luxury Card May Be the King of Hotel Cards, At Least Until October 31

If you’re a Marriott or Starwood loyalist, or even a hotel free agent, the new Starwood Preferred Guest Luxury Card offers great benefits and a massive sign-up bonus, at least until the end of October.

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JetBlue Is Chase’s Newest Ultimate Rewards Travel Partner, but You Usually Shouldn’t Care

Hot off the heels of news that Korean Airlines would no longer be available as a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, Chase has announced that JetBlue will be taking its place.

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Wells Fargo’s Propel Amex Boasts Great Bonus Categories With No Annual Fee

While we generally recommend travel rewards credit cards over cash back cards, Wells Fargo’s Propel Amex is about as good a cash back option as we’ve seen.

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The Regular Person’s Guide to Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points For Travel

A lot of people like to hoard their Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book first class flights or five star hotels that they’d never pay for themselves, and more power to them. But I prefer to stretch mine out to cover as much travel as possible, even if it’s not glamorous. Here are the most cost point-efficient…

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What Zombie Debt Is and How It Can Come Back to Haunt You

What Zombie Debt Is and How It Can Come Back to Haunt You

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver bought $15 million in outstanding medical debt just to prove how easy it is to start a debt buying company. It was debt that regular people owed, presumably from surgeries, hospital stays, medical procedures and so on. Instead of buying the debt to turn a profit, Oliver forgave it. All of it. The segment outlined the many flaws of the debt and credit industry, but specifically the concept of “zombie debt,” or old, forgotten debt that somehow resurfaces.

As legal site Nolo explains, zombie debt is debt that “is very old or no longer owed.” It’s debt that comes back to life when a collection agency buys it for cheap. It’s not the same as maxing out a credit card and being unable to pay or being flooded with bills you can’t haggle down. Zombie debt is often invalid, and collectors use intimidating, sneaky tactics to get people to pay.

How Zombie Debt Works

Debt collectors make money when they buy old debts incredibly cheap and get people to pay a portion of the original amount that’s bigger than what they paid themselves. Theoretically, that doesn’t sound so bad, right? Collectors just help companies reclaim lost funds, and, after all, we should all repay our debts. Fair enough.

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In practice, though, debt collecting is a very shady business, and zombie debt exemplifies this. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lists some common types of zombie debt:

  • debts you already settled with a company or other debt collector
  • debts that were discharged in bankruptcy
  • time-barred debts you may have forgotten or overlooked that are past the statute of limitations
  • debts that no longer show up on your credit report, generally after seven years
  • debts you never owed, like debts resulting from identity theft

It’s easy to say “If you have past debt, you should pay it.” Zombie debts don’t work this neatly. As the FTC points out, they’re often the result of identity theft and they can even be debts you’ve already settled.

How Debt Collectors Get Around Time-Barred Debts

The FTC warns that you can restart the clock on the debt’s statute of limitations if you make (or just promise to make) payments. This is important because it’s how debt collectors turn a profit.

“Statute of limitations” means debt collectors can sue you for a limited amount of time to collect your past due debt. After that time, those unpaid debts are “time-barred,” and a debt collector can’t sue for time-barred debts. This time frame—the statute of limitations—varies depending on your state. Here are the statutes of limitations for all 50 states.

When you restart the clock, collectors can sue you, and many of them do. When consumers ignore these lawsuits, which happens often, they have to pay up, which can lead to wage garnishment.

However, don’t get “statute of limitations” mixed up with the time limit for negative items to stay on your credit report. Most unpaid debt falls off your credit report after seven years from the date it becomes delinquent, no matter how many times that debt is bought or sold. That’s separate from the statute of limitations.

How to Deal With Zombie Debt

Sadly, not all of us will be lucky enough to have a cable news show buy and forgive our zombie debt. We’ve told you how to deal with debt collectors before, and the cautionary rules are generally the same for dealing with zombie debt.

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As you can see in the Last Week Tonight segment (and as you may have experienced yourself), debt collectors can be nasty. They use all sorts of tactics (and in some cases, intimidation and outright lying) to intimidate you into paying, from calling you nonstop to contacting your friends and family members.

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Thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors are not allowed to call during certain hours, use foul language, or make threats, though. So if you’re dealing with an agency breaking the rules, you can report them to the FTC. Also, abusive or threatening language are also red flags, so make sure you don’t have a scam on your hands, and here are a few questions you can ask to expose a fake debt collector. The FTC lays out your rights in dealing with debt collectors.

Assuming the agency is legit, your next order of business is to tackle them head on and make sure the debt is valid. Check out your credit report and see if the debt is listed. If not, the zombie debt may be a result of identity theft, and you can find sample letters to help dispute the debt at identitytheft.gov.

From there, ask for a “Validation Notice.” Consumer Reports explains how this works:

Even if the caller gives plausible-sounding answers, request a “validation notice” to verify the debt. The notice, which must be sent within five days of initial contact, must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a description of your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers sample request letters, too. To avoid restarting the statute of limitations, don’t even discuss the debt until you receive that notice.

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If you do indeed owe the money and believe you need to pay, dealing with collectors can still be tricky. We’ve written a guide to help you navigate the process, though.

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In most cases, dealing with zombie debt is easier said than done. A quirky television host might come to your rescue, but don’t count on it. At the very least, you should familiarize yourself with your credit report, know the statute of limitations on any past debts, and understand your rights.

Photo by Ryan Jorgensen – Jorgo

May’s Money Challenge: Save Money on Interest

May’s Money Challenge: Save Money on Interest

With our year long Ultimate Money Challenge, we’re challenging readers to a different personal finance challenge every month. This month, we’re taking on debt. Let’s cut your debt interest rate.

Interest can really put a damper on your goal to get out of debt. Instead of putting all of your money toward the debt’s principal, you have to dedicate some of it to interest, which means you pay more over time and your payoff takes longer. That’s why this month’s challenge is to reduce your debt interest rate. Some ways to do this:

Some of these moves shouldn’t be made lightly. For example, student loan refinancing can nab you a lower interest rate, but if you have a federal loan, you could lose your relief options. These options aren’t right for everyone, but we challenge you to find which options may be right for you, so you can save money on interest and get one step closer to your debt payoff.

If you’re up for the challenge, tell us your plan of action. What can and will you do this month to lower your debt interest?

Photo by frankieleon.

Why You Should Make a List of Every Account Linked to Your Credit Cards

Why You Should Make a List of Every Account Linked to Your Credit Cards

There aren’t many drawbacks to automating your finances, but one you occasionally encounter is having to update all of your bills when you get a new credit or debit card. To make it easier, finance writer J.Money suggests making a list of every account linked to your cards.

Maybe your card info was hacked and you had to order a new one. Or maybe you got a new chip credit card and your old one no longer works. Whatever the scenario, it can be a minor pain to go through all of the accounts linked to your card. Having a list of those accounts on hand is incredibly useful when that happens.

Over at Budgets Are Sexy, J. Money points to a couple of other reasons why this tip is helpful.

  1. It makes updating your new card everywhere MUCH faster
  2. It prevents any late fees from happening, or worse – shutting off of services since you don’t forget where it’s all listed anymore!
  3. It keeps stress levels as low as possible
  4. And it forces you to re-evaluate all the services/apps/products/bills you have to see if it’s still worth including in your life.

All it takes is sitting down and making a list once, and then as you link new accounts, simply add them to the list. For more detail, head to J.Money’s full post.

TIP: Make a list of where all your credit cards are listed! | Budgets Are Sexy

Photo by Sean MacEntee.

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Credit cards aren’t just convenient ways to pay for things. When used strategically, you can reap valuable rewards and perks you won’t get by paying with cash. Maximize your credit card rewards with these top 10 tips.

10. Pick the Best Rewards Credit Cards for Your Lifestyle

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

The best rewards credit card won’t be the same for everyone. It depends on how much you spend on different categories. If you often shop at the same retailers, consult this chart to see which credit cards will save you most at those stores. If you shop mainly at Amazon, some credit cards are more rewarding for that than others. If you’re a frequent traveler, you might be interested in credit cards that give you free hotel stays or companion plane tickets. We’ve rounded up some of the best credit cards for earning rewards here and compared five rewards credit cards in our Hive Five. You can also consult this graphic, which compares 25 popular rewards credit cards. So many to choose from!

9. Use a Cash Back Shopping Portal

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Every time you shop online, you can earn extra points, miles, or cash back. Your credit card bank has its own shopping portal you can start your shopping spree from, such as Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, but there are also cash back sites such as Ebates and FatWallet. The rewards will differ depending on where you’re shopping. To that end, find the right shopping portal for each store using a site like Cashback Monitor or previously mentioned Evrewards.

8. Buy and Sell Gift Cards for More Cash Back

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

If your card offers double (or more) points for shopping at a store where gift cards are sold, such as grocery stores or office supply stores, buying gift cards there could earn you bonus rewards. Keep in mind, however, this depends on your credit card company and the store you’re shopping at: Some stores will mark that you bought a gift card there and some banks don’t allow bonuses on them. Also, if you redeem your credit card rewards for gift cards, you can turn around and sell them to boost your return, depending on your credit card’s cash back rates.

7. Activate Your Rewards Categories

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

This one’s a no-brainer, but often we forget to activate the rotating rewards offered by our credit cards. You’ll usually get a reminder email from the credit card company, but you could also set a calendar reminder for activating the bonus categories. They usually happen quarterly.

6. Ditch the Annual Fee

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Certain rewards credit cards, particularly travel rewards cards, charge annual fees. Sometimes the benefits are worth it, but if you get the annual fee waived, you’ve just boosted the card’s value. All you have to do is ask. They might say no, but it’s worth a shot.

5. Time Your Credit Card Sign-up for the Biggest Bonuses

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Occasionally, credit card companies increase the sign-up bonuses, which can be worth free flights or hundreds of dollars. That’s the best time to get a rewards credit card, not when they’re offering the normal sign-up bonus. NerdWallet found the best times of the year to get these extra bonuses.

4. Use Your Credit Card’s Hidden Perks

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Beyond the popular benefits like cash back and purchase protection, most credit cards offer other rewards, such as travel insurance and roadside assistance. Check your policy to avoid spending on benefits already covered by your credit card.

3. Connect Your Credit Cards to Loyalty Programs

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

There are a few loyalty programs that reward you for dining out or shopping at particular places. Join the program and connect your credit card, and each time you eat or shop there, you’ll earn rewards towards cash back or miles. Or in Upromise Dining’s case, cash towards college. iDine, AAdvantage Dining, and Thanks Again are other programs to consider.

2. Rotate Your Credit Cards and Use Them for Everything

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

You’ll get even more rewards if you have multiple cash back credit cards, since each pays more for different categories. I have a dedicated card for grocery shopping, for example, for 5% cash back, a card for Amazon purchases, a regular 2% cash back card, and so on. If you have a hard time remembering which credit card is for what, keep a cheat sheet in your wallet. Also, if you’re responsible and pay off all your purchases every month, use your credit cards for everything, even bills if possible.

1. Redeem Your Points and Miles

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Finally, don’t let your miles or points just sit around in your credit card account. Some rewards expire. Even if yours don’t, the biggest mistake people make with their credit card rewards is not using them. (Although saving them for a big trip or for emergency flights is fine too.) If you have no need for your rewards, you can donate them or gift them to a family member or friend (or me).

All this said, remember to always make your credit card payments on time. Otherwise, you can not only lose your rewards, you could find yourself in a debt hole not worth the credit card rewards to begin with.

Illustration Fruzsina Kuhári.


Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out ourWeekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Credit cards aren’t just convenient ways to pay for things. When used strategically, you can reap valuable rewards and perks you won’t get by paying with cash. Maximize your credit card rewards with these top 10 tips.

10. Pick the Best Rewards Credit Cards for Your Lifestyle

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

The best rewards credit card won’t be the same for everyone. It depends on how much you spend on different categories. If you often shop at the same retailers, consult this chart to see which credit cards will save you most at those stores. If you shop mainly at Amazon, some credit cards are more rewarding for that than others. If you’re a frequent traveler, you might be interested in credit cards that give you free hotel stays or companion plane tickets. We’ve rounded up some of the best credit cards for earning rewards here and compared five rewards credit cards in our Hive Five. You can also consult this graphic, which compares 25 popular rewards credit cards. So many to choose from!

9. Use a Cash Back Shopping Portal

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Every time you shop online, you can earn extra points, miles, or cash back. Your credit card bank has its own shopping portal you can start your shopping spree from, such as Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, but there are also cash back sites such as Ebates and FatWallet. The rewards will differ depending on where you’re shopping. To that end, find the right shopping portal for each store using a site like Cashback Monitor or previously mentioned Evrewards.

8. Buy and Sell Gift Cards for More Cash Back

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

If your card offers double (or more) points for shopping at a store where gift cards are sold, such as grocery stores or office supply stores, buying gift cards there could earn you bonus rewards. Keep in mind, however, this depends on your credit card company and the store you’re shopping at: Some stores will mark that you bought a gift card there and some banks don’t allow bonuses on them. Also, if you redeem your credit card rewards for gift cards, you can turn around and sell them to boost your return, depending on your credit card’s cash back rates.

7. Activate Your Rewards Categories

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

This one’s a no-brainer, but often we forget to activate the rotating rewards offered by our credit cards. You’ll usually get a reminder email from the credit card company, but you could also set a calendar reminder for activating the bonus categories. They usually happen quarterly.

6. Ditch the Annual Fee

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Certain rewards credit cards, particularly travel rewards cards, charge annual fees. Sometimes the benefits are worth it, but if you get the annual fee waived, you’ve just boosted the card’s value. All you have to do is ask. They might say no, but it’s worth a shot.

5. Time Your Credit Card Sign-up for the Biggest Bonuses

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Occasionally, credit card companies increase the sign-up bonuses, which can be worth free flights or hundreds of dollars. That’s the best time to get a rewards credit card, not when they’re offering the normal sign-up bonus. NerdWallet found the best times of the year to get these extra bonuses.

4. Use Your Credit Card’s Hidden Perks

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Beyond the popular benefits like cash back and purchase protection, most credit cards offer other rewards, such as travel insurance and roadside assistance. Check your policy to avoid spending on benefits already covered by your credit card.

3. Connect Your Credit Cards to Loyalty Programs

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

There are a few loyalty programs that reward you for dining out or shopping at particular places. Join the program and connect your credit card, and each time you eat or shop there, you’ll earn rewards towards cash back or miles. Or in Upromise Dining’s case, cash towards college. iDine, AAdvantage Dining, and Thanks Again are other programs to consider.

2. Rotate Your Credit Cards and Use Them for Everything

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

You’ll get even more rewards if you have multiple cash back credit cards, since each pays more for different categories. I have a dedicated card for grocery shopping, for example, for 5% cash back, a card for Amazon purchases, a regular 2% cash back card, and so on. If you have a hard time remembering which credit card is for what, keep a cheat sheet in your wallet. Also, if you’re responsible and pay off all your purchases every month, use your credit cards for everything, even bills if possible.

1. Redeem Your Points and Miles

Top 10 Ways to Squeeze More Rewards Out of Your Credit Cards

Finally, don’t let your miles or points just sit around in your credit card account. Some rewards expire. Even if yours don’t, the biggest mistake people make with their credit card rewards is not using them. (Although saving them for a big trip or for emergency flights is fine too.) If you have no need for your rewards, you can donate them or gift them to a family member or friend (or me).

All this said, remember to always make your credit card payments on time. Otherwise, you can not only lose your rewards, you could find yourself in a debt hole not worth the credit card rewards to begin with.

Illustration Fruzsina Kuhári.


Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out ourWeekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.