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How Owning or Selling a Home Affects Your Taxes

Owning a home is exciting, challenging and the biggest investment of many people’s lives. It’s also a good way to reduce your tax bill.

Home-related tax breaks begin as soon as you close on your new abode and last throughout your time in the house. But to maximize them, you need to follow some rules.

A home isn’t just a house

American homeowners own a variety of types of homes — and the federal Internal Revenue Code recognizes this.

When it comes to tax breaks, your home can be a house, a condominium, a co-op apartment, a mobile home or even a recreational vehicle or boat. As long as it has sleeping, cooking and bathroom facilities, the IRS will allow you to claim several home-related expenses.

Itemizing deductions is the key to saving

Once you own a home, you’ll probably have to change your tax-filing habits. Taking full tax advantage of a property requires most people to itemize instead of using the standard deduction. This means filling out the longer Form 1040 and accompanying Schedule A, where you detail your home-related tax-deductible expenses. Most homeowners find itemizing worth the effort, and plenty of tax software takes the pain out of the process.

» MORE: Itemizing vs. standard deduction

There are two key sections of Schedule A that deal with home deductions:

Mortgage and home-related interest

Many homeowners’ biggest tax break comes via their monthly mortgage payment, a large part of which goes toward loan interest. As long as your home loan is $1 million or less, all of that interest paid is tax deductible. And if you paid discount points to get a lower loan rate, you usually can deduct those points from your taxes, too.

If you’ve taken out a home equity loan or line of credit, you can generally deduct the interest you paid on that debt. It doesn’t matter if you used the funds on your residence, as long as you received $100,000 or less.

Private mortgage insurance — which you’re likely paying if you didn’t make a 20% down payment — is treated as mortgage interest and thus is deductible, at least for the 2016 tax year. The catch is you can’t deduct it if you have an income greater than $109,000.

Property taxes

In most cases, another portion of your monthly mortgage payment covers your annual property taxes. (Your lender then pays your tax bill.) In others, homeowners pay them directly. Either way, you can deduct these payments as long as you own your residence.

If this is your first year in the house, double check the settlement sheet you received at closing. You probably split the year’s real estate taxes with the seller based on the date of sale. The share you paid will appear on this closing document and it’s fully tax deductible.

» MORE: Try this federal tax calculator

No tax on the sale of your home (up to a point)

All those years you spend in your home can provide substantial tax savings. The best tax break, however, is likely to come when you sell.

When single taxpayers sell a primary residence, they can pocket up to $250,000 in profit and not owe any capital gains taxes. The allowance doubles for married couples who file a joint return.

Note that this tax-exclusion amount is based on your profit, not your sales price. You could sell your home for $1 million and still not owe Uncle Sam as long as your profit is no more than $250,000 or, if married, $500,000.

How to figure out your home’s basis

Profit from a home sale is calculated as it is with any other capital asset you sell: Subtract your home’s adjusted basis from the price you got.

For most homeowners, the basis equals the original purchase price plus the value of all capital improvements made to the property. These improvements must add to your home’s value and don’t include routine maintenance and repairs.

Keep track of upgrades to your property. The greater your home’s basis, the lower your sale profit, ideally to a tax-free level. (And even if you do make some taxable profit on your home sale, at least it will be taxed at the lower long-term capital gains tax rate.)

Qualifying for a tax-free home sale

With such a great tax savings, you might be tempted to become a serial home seller. That could work, but you must meet some requirements in order to qualify for the tax-free home-sale profit.

  1. The property must be your principal residence. This is the place where you live and literally call home.
  2. You must own the property for at least two years before you sell it.
  3. You must have lived in the property for two of the five years before you sell. The good news here is that the residency doesn’t have to be continuous. You could have lived in the house for a year, then taken an out-of-town job posting for three years, before coming back to the home for another year and then selling.
  4. You can’t have sold a home and avoided the tax on your profit within the two prior years.

Most folks meet these requirements. So in addition to packing your personal belongings onto a moving van, you pack away a nice tax-free check into your bank account.

Money Orders Defined: Cost, Best Uses, Where to Buy

Money orders have been around for over a century and are still a reliable way to send funds.  Here’s what a money order is and how to use it.

What is a money order?

A money order is a form of prepaid payment that’s a safe alternative to cash or checks. You specify who will receive the money order, and both you and that person must sign it for it to be valid. Unlike with a personal check, the money is guaranteed by a third party, such as the post office, Wal-Mart or Western Union. The cost usually ranges from under a dollar to several bucks, which can be a bargain compared with some other ways to send money, especially internationally.

People also use: • Certified checks • Cashier’s checks

 

When do I need a money order?

There are times when using cash or personal checks can put you at risk, or they aren’t accepted for payment. Examples:

  • You don’t have a checking account and need to pay bills. Since money orders require you to pay in advance, the money isn’t tied to any bank account and can be easily sent to other people. If you want to store your money and pay for more than just bills, a better solution is a prepaid debit card.
  • You’re worried about bouncing a check. Because money orders are prepaid, they can’t be rejected for insufficient funds and aren’t subject to the fees that come with bouncing a check.
  • You’re mailing money. A money order helps ensure that only the recipient can use it.
  • You need to send a payment more securely. Unlike checks, money orders don’t include your bank account number.
  • You’re sending money internationally. Not all money orders work abroad, but U.S. Postal Service money orders can be sent to 28 countries. It’s an alternative to a wire transfer, which is faster but usually more expensive.

» MORE: Best ways to wire money internationally

NerdWallet is a free tool to find you the best credit cards, cd rates, savings, checking accounts, scholarships, healthcare and airlines. Start here to maximize your rewards or minimize your interest rates. Bev O'Shea Get Your Free Credit Score Get your free score every week.Set goals and see your progress.Signing up won't affect your score. Get your credit score Where do I get a money order?
  • Wal-Mart: The big-box store offers fairly cheap money orders: 70 cents for up to $1,000.
  • Banks and credit unions: Financial institutions sell money orders for around $5 each, with values typically up to $1,000. They often waive fees for customers with premium accounts.
  • Money transfer agents: You can buy money orders from companies such as Western Union and MoneyGram at convenience stores, drugstores, supermarkets, check-cashing outlets and elsewhere. Western Union money orders, as an example, generally cost from 99 cents to $1.50; charges vary by location. The maximum value is usually $1,000.
  • U.S. Postal Service: Money orders at your local post office are $1.20 for orders up to $500; $1.60 for amounts over $500 up to $1,000. There’s one exception: Military money orders, issued by postal military facilities, are 40 cents. An international money order with a value of up to $700 costs $8.25.

You can typically pay for a money order with cash or a debit card, but there may be other options depending on the place. Just steer clear of using a credit card, because your issuer might consider it a cash advance and charge you extra.

Tips when sending money orders
  • Keep the receipt as proof of payment. The receipt will be a carbon copy of the money order or a paper slip recording the information entered on the money order.
  • Track your money order. Your receipt will also have a tracking number that you can use to verify that the money order got to the intended recipient. If any problems arise, contact the place where you bought the money order to get help.
  • If the money order is lost or stolen, or if you filled in the wrong information, you may be able to cancel it and get a replacement or refund. You’ll need to bring your receipt and the money order itself, if you have it, to the place where it was purchased. But it could cost a fee. For example, Western Union charges $15 to replace a money order.
Where can I cash a money order?

Your best bet is to cash a money order at the place that issued it, whether that’s a bank, post office or other location. Check-cashing locations, convenience stores and grocery stores can be alternatives, but watch out for fees. Wherever you go, you’ll probably need to show identification.

If you don’t need the money right away and you have a bank account, consider depositing it. Banks accept U.S. Postal Service money orders as they would regular checks at branches, ATMs or even on a banking app with a mobile check deposit function. Don’t forget to sign the back of the money order before depositing.

Knowing your way around money orders can help you send a payment more safely than cash or a check and avoid any unnecessary fees in the process.

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @margarette.

Updated Feb. 27, 2017.

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.

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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.

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