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Saving thousands of dollars on your student loans sounds perfect, and that's just what LendKey promises. Is it the real deal, though?

LendKey filled a void that existed in the student loan refinancing industry. Small banks and credit unions didn't have a way to extend their reach beyond their small community. Advertising their rates and offering online applications is often too costly for them. Enter LendKey, the company that brings small banks and/or credit unions together with potential borrowers.

What Is LendKey?

LendKey helps take the confusion out of shopping for a student loan refinance. With one simple platform, they give you access to hundreds of banks vying for your business. Don't confuse LendKey with lenders, though. They are a third-party online platform that connects you to the banks and credit unions offering the loans. You use LendKey to apply for the loans and from there, get matched with appropriate lenders.

If you choose a loan, you then move forward with the chosen bank. LendKey does not underwrite or fund the loan. LendKey offers its service free of charge to borrowers. The only cause for concern is the hard credit inquiry that will occur if you choose a lender and go through the application process with them. However, that would be the case no matter where you applied for a student loan refinance.

LendKey promises that you will lower your payments and simplify your finances. They also promise the chance to receive multiple offers with different options for your comparison.

Keep reading to see just how LendKey stacks up to its promises.

Who Benefits from LendKey?

If your income and/or credit situation has improved since you graduated college, refinancing your student loans may help. If you don't have the time or wherewithal to do the research yourself, LendKey helps you understand your options all in one portal. It takes the confusion and effort out of the process.

All you need in order to find out your available rates is to enter basic information about yourself. At this point, they conduct a soft credit inquiry, which does not affect your credit score. This gives you the chance to run the numbers and see if you actually benefit from a refinance.

A lower rate doesn't always mean you should do it. Look at all of your refinance options, including any federal programs (such as forgiveness programs), to make sure this is the right choice.

Reasons Why We Like It

Assuming that refinancing your student loan debt is the right choice, we like LendKey for the following reasons:

  • Flexible underwriting guidelines: Because LendKey matches you with one of hundreds of lenders in their network, you'll find more flexibility with the underwriting guidelines compared to applying with lenders one at a time.

  • No origination fees: Lenders networking with LendKey do not charge an origination fee for their service. This could save you thousands of dollars on the refinance.

  • Have multiple options in one user-friendly portal: The offers you receive after completing the application are pre-screened offers. You can compare the offers without affecting your credit score. They base your approvals on your location, degree, types of loans, and loan amounts. The offers are then contingent upon proof of your income and credit score.

  • Release a co-signer: After you successfully make 12-36 consecutive months of on-time payments, you may apply for a co-signer release. This gives you full ownership of the loan and releases your co-signer's liability.

  • Simply your finances: Consolidating multiple student loans into one loan makes it easier to keep track of your balance and what you owe. It may eliminate confusion and even late payments by making your finances easier to handle.

  • Consolidate private and federal student loans into one loan: You may be eligible to consolidate any type of student loan, including federal loans. However, you may want to consider all of your options before doing so.

  • Fixed or variable rate options: LendKey matches you with lenders that offer both fixed and variable rate options. You can compare the different programs using LendKey's refinancing calculator to determine if refinancing is right for you.

  • Discount for automatic payments: Once you accept a loan from LendKey, you can opt for automatic payments. This will reduce your rate by one-quarter of a percent.
Reasons You May Want to Look Elsewhere

  • You have federal student debt: As we discussed above, it's not always a good idea to consolidate your federal student loans. The government offers a variety of repayment and even forgiveness options, including longer repayment periods, income-based repayment plans, and even plans that forgive your balance after meeting certain criteria. Refinancing with LendKey would eliminate these options.

  • You don't have time to research the banks: LendKey doesn't do the research on the banks for you, nor do they offer any information on them. If you want to know a bank's reputation or the fine print that goes along with the loan, you have to call the bank yourself. This could mean more hours conducting research online or making phone calls. If you were looking for a streamlined service, this may not be it.

  • You have parent loans: LendKey doesn't allow you to refinance your parent loans with your standard student loans. If you have parent loans, you may want to look at other institutions that allow the inclusion of these loans.
The Application Process

LendKey's application process is like that of any other bank offering student loan refinancing options. If you just want to check the available rates in your area, you'll only need limited information, including:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Annual income
  • School and degree type
  • Loan amount and loan type

It should only take a few minutes to complete the initial application. You'll receive offers within a few minutes of submitting your application. You can then review the offers, do your research, and choose the loan that fits your needs.

Once you choose a lender to complete the application process with, you'll need to provide more information about yourself. This is all done through the LendKey interface, though. The lender will respond with a conditional offer, which lets you know what information/proof they will need to approve your loan.

Contacting LendKey: LendKey offers phone support between the hours of 9 AM to 8 PM Eastern Standard Time, Monday - Friday, by calling 1-888-549-9050.

They also offer limited help online via their knowledgebase and existing blog.

How It Compares

  • SoFi: Alumni and individual investors provide the funds for borrowers at SoFi. They offer loan programs similar to those from LendKey, but may have slightly lower interest rates.

  • Earnest: Rather than your credit score and current income, Earnest looks at your savings pattern, number of investments, and job history to determine your ability to consolidate your student loans. Earnest offers loans as low as $5,000, which is less than most lenders in the LendKey network offer.

  • CommonBond: With their streamlined application process, CommonBond is a plausible choice for your loan consolidations. They offer an elaborate program for borrowers who experience hardship after taking a loan, as well as many financial education programs.
The Bottom Line

LendKey can be a great way to save money and organize your finances. As is the case with any debt consolidation, weigh the pros and cons before moving forward. Determine the full amount of your savings, not only per month, but over the life of the loan. How much interest will you pay when it's all said and done? Compare that number to the total interest you would pay on your current loans combined.

Don't fall for the no origination fee and promise to save you thousands without crunching the numbers to see how it will help you.

LendKey Review appeared first on CreditDonkey

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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QuickBooks Online offers small business owners a cloud-based accounting program that provides many features, including business payments, income, and reporting.

QuickBooks Online operates solely online, but offers more than just basic accounting. It's meant to help small business owners simplify the back-end of running a business.

Tip: With the ability to add up to 5 users with one account, people throughout the company can be on the same page, minimizing mistakes. The program also offers the ability to give additional limited permissions to users as you see fit.

A few of the features you'll find with QuickBooks Online include:

  • Invoicing
  • Creating and evaluating financial reports
  • Expense tracking
  • Profit & loss statements
  • Client portal for clients to see their invoices, pay them, or address concerns
  • Bank reconciliation
  • Inventory

Getting started with QuickBooks Online is as easy as entering a little information about your company and watching a few tutorials. Don't let these simple steps fool you, though. In order to get the most out of the program, plan to invest many hours setting your preferences and learning how various features work.

With one dashboard for everyone to work on, it helps to eliminate confusion and, most importantly, mistakes throughout the company. Rather than worrying about logging out and letting another employee do their job, you can all work on it together. The risk of miscommunication may be decreased with the cloud-based program.

Who Is QuickBooks Online Best For?

Hands down, QuickBooks Online is reserved for small businesses and freelancers. If you operate with very few employees, yet have complex transactions, this system may work well for you.

QuickBooks advertises this program for mid- and large-sized businesses too. It does offer the complex accounting features companies of this size may need. However, companies with many employees may want to look elsewhere, as the costs for payroll can add up rather quickly.

Reasons Why We Like It

  • Easy to use interface and navigation: The color-coded interface makes it easy to find what you need quickly. You can view everything on one page or get more detailed information by clicking on each topic and creating filters.

  • Easy invoice customization: Creating a brand for your company is important, which is why we like the customization features in QuickBooks Online. You can import your company logo and information to create one-of-a-kind invoices for your business. You can also customize the look of the email the system sends out when it's time to send invoices. It also gives the option to use pre-made templates if you prefer.

  • Unlimited invoices via email: Sending invoices online may save you time and even money on postage. It also helps keep everything in one place and may help you get paid faster.

  • Mobile accessibility: You can access your dashboard on your phone, making it possible to manage your accounting from just about anywhere.

  • Online banking: You can link bank accounts and credit cards to your QuickBooks Online account. This eliminates the need for manual entry of every transaction as the system automatically downloads each transaction. QuickBooks currently integrates with more than 18,000 banks.

  • Works well with third-party apps: If there's a function you need that QuickBooks Online doesn't offer, they offer many third-party apps that may offer the services you need. The benefit in working with partnered apps is the integration they provide for your accounting system.

  • Customize your dashboard: If you have the time, you can customize your preferences so that the dashboard only shows the information you need. You'll have to activate each feature that you need, which is best to do at the onset of setting up your account with QuickBooks Online.

  • No software to install: We love the cloud-based systems because you get the automatic backup and the ability to export to programs like Excel. But you also gain the ability to work on the system from just about anywhere, while also sharing the details with as many as five other authorized users.
Reasons You May Want to Look Elsewhere

  • Doesn't include payroll: If you want to include payroll in your accounting system, you may want to consider a full-service program. QuickBooks Online does offer payroll, but at an additional monthly cost plus a surcharge per employee.

  • It's not for beginners: Beginners might feel overwhelmed at QuickBooks Online's user interface. There is a definite learning curve that requires time and patience. You'll see accounting-specific jargon that can make you feel lost if you are not familiar with it. If you have the time to go through the numerous video tutorials, though, you may be able to jump on board quickly.

  • No project management features: If you want project management software, you'll have to choose among the third-party apps that integrate with QuickBooks Online.

  • You need internet: If your internet connection is down, you won't have access to QuickBooks Online. You'll either have to wait for the internet to come back or go to a public place using Wi-Fi. However, that comes with its own security issues.

QuickBooks Online differs from the standard PC version where you pay for the program once and it's good for a few years. With this version, you pay a monthly subscription. It's like a pay-as-you-go program. However, you can add additional features onto the basic services, such as payroll, tax filing, and credit card acceptance.

QuickBooks Online offers three different programs:

Simple Start
Price: $15 per month (but they often run promotions for introductory periods)

This plan works well for freelancers and those running rather small businesses online or in-person. At a glance features:

  • Import income transactions right from your payment processors, such as Square, PayPal and your bank
  • Import expense transactions right from your bank and credit cards, as well as photos of your receipts
  • Create, send, and track invoices
  • Create and send estimates
  • Track sales and connect with your favorite POS
  • 20+ built-in reports
  • Integration with your bank accounts and third-party apps

Price: $35 per month (but they often run promotions for introductory periods)

Small businesses that want a few more capabilities may prefer this program, which offers all of the above plus:

  • Pay and keep track of bills as well as set up recurring payments
  • Create checks from any device and save to print later
  • Add multiple employees with specific permissions
  • Set up auto syncing so everyone is on the same page
  • Track employee time or billable hours with clients
  • 40+ built-in reports

Price: $50 per month (but they often run promotions for introductory periods)

Businesses with contractors or freelancers working for them utilize the services in the Plus plan, which includes all of the above plus:

  • Inventory tracking, including alerts when stock is low
  • Keep track of 1099 contractors, including payments made to them
  • 65+ built-in reports

QuickBooks Online offers an even smaller (cheaper) version called QuickBooks Self-Employed, reserved mainly for freelancers. Those who don't need to track inventory, time, and other miscellaneous data can use the minimal tools offered by QuickBooks for a lower price.
Support and Training

  • Setup:
    Setup of QuickBooks Online is as simple as completing one form with your business information. From there, you decide how complicated you want things to get. Through the settings tab, you can set up the features that you know you need. QuickBooks takes those settings and creates a dashboard that suits your needs. You can tweak the setup at any time by going back to settings.

  • Tutorials:
    The tutorials provided once you choose your features are all online. You can peruse the tutorials or just dive right in and figure things out as you go along. However, they do also offer webinars on a weekly basis. They are one hour long and require pre-registration. It's the closest thing you'll get to live training with QuickBooks Online.

  • Customer Service:
    This is where everyone says QuickBooks is lacking. They do offer a multitude of online articles, which you can search to find answers to your questions.

    If your question isn't answered there or you want customer support on the phone, you'll have to call between 6 AM and 6 PM Monday-Friday or 6 AM to 3 PM on Saturday. The phone number for customer support is 1-800-488-7330.

    An alternative to calling customer service is to browse through the Community Forum or even ask your own question. Sometimes getting answers from those using the program is quicker and more efficient than waiting for a representative.

Is QuickBooks Online down? You can check the status at any time by clicking here.
How It Compares

  • QuickBooks Desktop: Choosing between QuickBooks Desktop or Online depends on your needs. The online version offers more mobility and customization, but requires a monthly fee and internet access. The desktop version is good for businesses operating from one location with few people needing access to the accounting software.

  • Xero: Both Xero and QuickBooks Online offer robust accounting services. Where Xero may excel, though, is in customer service and unlimited employee access.

  • Freshbooks: This cloud-based accounting service takes top prize for customer service, mobile app user friendliness, and a simple user interface. It does, however, only allow one person to use it at a time. Multiple users will cost an additional $10 per employee.
The Bottom Line

QuickBooks Online offers many features beneficial for small businesses. If you have less than five employees and are fairly knowledgeable about accounting, it could fit your needs. If you need more handholding or have more than five employees, you may want to look elsewhere.

QuickBooks Online Review appeared first on CreditDonkey

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These programs can help wipe away medical school debt. Read this repayment guide for doctors.

Forgiveness and Repayment Options for Doctors

Did you know that federal and state government branches provide financial assistance to doctors working in specific areas? You can use this money to help you pay off your student loans. First, you have to meet specific requirements.

Unfortunately, you don't leave medical school with just a degree to practice medicine. If you are like the average medical school student, you leave with $192,000 in medical school debt. In addition, many med school students still have their average $37,000 in undergrad debt to pay.

That could mean an average of $229,000 in debt before you even start working. Unfortunately, a doctor's salary doesn't start as high as you think.

First, there are residency requirements. The average doctor makes $53,580 - $57,500 per year during a 3-year residency. Specialty doctors make slightly more, with an average of $70,390. That's still not enough to cover such large amounts of debt.

The interest on your student loans alone could amount to more than what you make per year. Before you let yourself get buried in debt, learn the various forgiveness and repayment options available to you.

The Problem with Forbearance

Before we look at the forgiveness options, it's important to talk about forbearance, as it always seems like the "easy choice."

While it's nice to not have to make any payments while you work your way through residency, it can hurt in the end.

Sure, you can stop making your payments, but the interest doesn't stop accruing. On $192,000 in loans at 6.8% interest, you'd rack up $39,000 in accrued interest. This makes your new loan amount $231,000 just by putting the loans in forbearance.

You are better off paying your debts as best you can, even if you only pay the interest. Better yet, though, you can utilize one of the many repayment and forgiveness options at your disposal.

Choosing Loan Forgiveness

Before you enter into a loan forgiveness or repayment plan, though, keep in mind that you may have to work in a specific area or at a specific practice for a specified period. If you don't meet the program's requirements, you lose your chance for loan forgiveness or repayment assistance.

The largest downfall of loan forgiveness is the areas you may have to work. Usually it's for a nonprofit hospital or an area with a high need for doctors. However, the tradeoff can make it well worth it in the end.

Loan Forgiveness Options

Below are the most common loan forgiveness options for doctors. We offer the highlights of each program as well as a link to help you learn more about the program.

National Health Service Corps

A two-year commitment to a National Health Service Corps high-need site could yield you $50,000 towards your medical school debt. You can work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Primary care medical
  • Dental
  • Behavioral health professional

The longer you serve at the site, the more money you receive toward your medical school loans. Priority is given to providers who work on sites with a Health Professional Shortage Area rating of 26-14, with 26 being the highest rating for areas in dire need.

After your two-year commitment, you can apply to continue your service in exchange for further loan forgiveness.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program isn't just for doctors, but they can definitely benefit from the program. This federal program helps to encourage employment in public service jobs. In order to qualify, you must:

  • Have Direct Student Loans with a balance
  • Make 120 payments on a qualified repayment plan
  • Work full-time in a public service sector (government or not-for-profit site)

At the end of 10 years, the balance of your remaining Direct Loans may be forgiven if you meet all of the PLSF requirements.

Military Forgiveness Options

Army physicians have several options for loan payment assistance, including:

  • Financial Assistance Program: The Army provides certain physicians working to complete their residency with grants of more than $45,000 per year. In addition, they provide a $2,000 monthly stipend.

  • Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program: As an army physician, you may receive up to $40,000 per year for your 3-year residency.

  • Healthcare Professionals Loan Repayment Program: You may be eligible to receive up to $250,000 for loan repayment if you work in specific specialties in the Army Reserve, AMEDD Professional Management, or Individual Mobilization Program. If you qualify, you may receive up to $40,000 per year towards your medical school loans. You can receive up to a total of $250,000 for your lifetime.

Navy physicians are privy to similar benefits as Army physicians, including:

  • Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program: Extending your active duty as medical personnel may make you eligible to receive up to $40,000 per year to put towards your medical student loans. The Navy pays your institution directly, helping to lower your loan balance and interest owed.

  • Financial Assistance Program: You may be eligible to receive grants up to $45,000 per year towards your medical school debts plus a monthly stipend of $2,276 while you are in residency training.

Air Force:
The Air Force has one program that is very similar to the Financial Assistance Program provided by the Navy. It provides financial assistance during your residency with a maximum of $45,000 for each year you are in residency. They also provide a stipend of $2,000 each month to help you pay your living expenses. Once you complete your residency, you'll have a service obligation of one year for every year you participated in FAP.

Indian Health Services Loan Repayment Program

The Indian Health Service encourages medical professionals to serve in the Indian and Alaska Native communities with high need for health professionals in certain fields by providing financial assistance for their student loans. Professionals must commit to 2 years of service in exchange for up to $40,000 in loan repayment.

You may be able to extend your service on a yearly basis until you no longer have outstanding qualified student debts.

State Programs for Loan Forgiveness and Debt Repayment

In addition to the federal programs above, many states throughout the US have programs for their residents. Many of the programs are through the National Health Service Corps, but on a state level. These programs encourage the employment of medical professionals in high-need areas.

However, several states have independent loan repayment assistance plans. Again, these programs often encourage employment in specific areas of high need in exchange for assistance with loan repayment.

Below are the state programs available today:

  • Alabama
    The Board of Medical Scholarship Awards in Alabama awards student loans to medical students in exchange for a contractual agreement to work in a rural, medically underserved area. Priority is given to residents with an economic need. The length of time you must work in the area depends on the population of the area in which the recipient received the award.

  • Alaska
    Doctors throughout the state of Alaska can receive loan repayment benefits in the SHARP-3 program. No specific areas considered "high need"; the whole state is included. Doctors in "regular fill" positions may receive up to $35,000 in loan forgiveness per year. Doctors in "hard to fill" positions may receive up to $47,000 per year.

  • Arizona
    The Arizona State Loan Repayment Program offers loan repayment for the residents of Arizona. The Primary Care Provider Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayment funds to doctors working in a shortage area. Doctors must agree to a 2-year term working full-time in order to receive up to $65,000 in loan repayment funds. The actual amount received depends on the HPSA score - the higher the need, the more money you receive. Doctors can extend their contract until their loans are paid in full, assuming the funds are available.

  • California
    The California State Loan Repayment Program provides California residents with up to $50,000 for education loans. In exchange for the award, recipients must give a 2-year commitment to work at a State Loan Repayment Program Site. Applicants can commit to a 2-year, full-time obligation or a 4-year, part-time obligation to cover their educational loan debt.

    The Steven M Thompson Physician Corps Loan Repayment Program offers loan repayment assistance to allopathic and osteopathic doctors and surgeons. You must work in one of these fields in a Health Professional Shortage Area, but not be under any other contractual obligations for loan forgiveness. Committing to full-time work for three years may provide you with up to $105,000 in loan repayment in exchange for your service.

  • Colorado
    The Colorado Health Services Loan Repayment Program offers loan repayment options for qualified student loans in exchange for practicing in a Health Professional Shortage Area. You must work at either a public or nonprofit practice that accepts public aid and/or offers discounted services for low-income patients. If you work full-time for three years, you may receive up to $90,000 in loan repayment. Part-time physicians may earn up to $45,000 in loan repayment.

  • Delaware
    The Delaware State Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayment for primary care doctors, mental health professionals, and dentists working in an HPSA. Your level of service and specialty determine how much money you may receive in exchange for a 2-year service commitment. Advanced level doctors may receive up to $100,000 in loan repayment and mid-level may receive up to $70,000 in loan repayment. However, typically, the amounts are capped at $70,000 and $50,000, respectively.

  • Georgia
    The Physicians for Rural Areas Assistance Program (PRAA)offers qualified physicians and dentists up to $25,000 per service year in exchange for their work in an HPSA. Initially, you can work in the HPSA in exchange for loan repayment funds for 2 years. You may apply for further benefits and service for a maximum of 4 years total.

  • Hawaii
    The Hawaii State Loan Repayment Program provides qualified physicians working in high-need areas with loan repayment funds. You must commit to working full-time for 2 years or half-time for 4 years in order to qualify. Hawaii has numerous sites that qualify for the funding, even those with an HPSA score of 0.

  • Illinois
    Doctors licensed to work in Illinois who agree to work in an underserved area may receive up to $25,000 per year with the Illinois National Health Services Corps State Loan Repayment Program. In exchange for the payment, doctors must agree to a 2-year service commitment. However, if you owe less than $50,000 on your medical student loans, you may only receive up to $12,500 per year. Doctors may work half-time to fulfill the obligation; however, they must agree to extend their term to 4 years in order to receive the maximum $50,000 benefit.

  • Iowa
    The Primary Care Recruitment and Retention Endeavor (PRIMECARRE) offers a 2-year grant for loan repayment in exchange for work in an HPSA. The program is open to doctors, dentists, and mental health professionals. Full-time doctors, dentists, and health care professionals may receive between $30,000 and $50,000 for the entire two-year commitment. Part-time applicants may receive between $15,000 and $25,000.

  • Kansas
    The Kansas State Loan Repayment Program requires a 2-year commitment in an HPSA in exchange for up to $50,000 in loan repayment funds. Certain professionals may be able to extend their service for up to a total of 5 years for an additional $45,000 total in loan repayment funds. The amount received goes down by year. For example, in Year 3, medical professionals may receive up to an additional $20,000, but in Year 4, they can receive up to $15,000 and Year 5 $10,000.

    The Kansas Bridging Plan provides loan forgiveness of up to $26,000 for those enrolled in residency programs in a rural Kansas community. Applicants must work in the chosen community for 36 consecutive months in order to obtain the loan forgiveness.

  • Kentucky
    The Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayment funds to those agreeing to a 2-year service agreement in an HPSA. Doctors typically receive up to $80,000 for their service. However, the KSLRP requires a 50/50 match from a sponsor. The sponsor can be the employer, other state programs, relatives, or yourself. Every dollar the KSLRP provides must be matched dollar-for-dollar.

  • Louisiana
    The Louisiana State Loan Repayment Program provides doctors with up to $30,000 per year for a 3-year commitment in a high-need area. If you still have educational loans with an outstanding balance at the end of 3 years, you may apply for an extension for up to 2 years and an additional $24,000.

  • Maryland
    The Maryland State Loan Repayment Program provides doctors with up to $50,000 per year in loan repayment funds for commitment to a 2-year service in a high-need area. Doctors must work a minimum of 40 hours per week with at least 32 of those hours in direct patient care. The practice must accept federal aid as well as operate on a sliding scale for lower income patients. Applicants may reapply for benefits after the 2-year period for an additional 2-year period, for a total of $200,000.

  • Massachusetts
    Primary care doctors in Massachusetts may receive up to $50,000 per year in loan repayment under the Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program. Eligible doctors must commit to 2-years of service in a high-need area. The amount of compensation you will receive depends on the level of need and type of work provided.

  • Michigan
    The Michigan State Loan Repayment Program provides up to $200,000 in loan repayment funds for eligible physicians. This is over a period of 8 years, which work in 2-year increments. After the initial 2 years, you must reapply for an extension if you still have outstanding educational loans. You must work 40 hours a week for at least 45 weeks per year in a high-need area in order to qualify.

  • Minnesota
    The Minnesota State Loan Repayment Program provides eligible physicians and licensed health professionals with up to $20,000 per year in loan forgiveness in exchange for 2 years of service in an HPSA. Physicians that work part-time are eligible to receive up to $10,000 per year for loan repayment.

    The Minnesota Urban Physician Loan Forgiveness Program provides up to $100,000 for 4 years of service ($25,000 per year) for physicians in under-served areas. This highly selective program chooses participants based on qualifying factors, including the type of training and experience the applicant possesses.

  • Missouri
    The Missouri Health Professional State Loan Repayment Program provides applicants with up to $50,000 in loan repayment in exchange for 2 years of service in a high-need area. They accept applications throughout the year, but don't make their selection until April of each year.

  • Montana
    The Montana Rural Physician Incentive Program offers full-time physicians up to $100,000 in loan repayment for up to 5 years of service in a high-need area. Eligible doctors must have full hospital privileges in the area they work and reapply for the program every year that they still have outstanding loans.

  • Nebraska
    The Nebraska Loan Repayment Program provides eligible doctors practicing in rural, high-need areas of Nebraska with up to $30,000 per year in exchange for a 3-year service commitment. 50% of the funds come from the state, while the other 50% must come from an eligible sponsor willing to match the funds to reach the $30,000 annual total.

  • Nevada
    The Nevada Health Service Corps provides loan repayment options for doctors willing to work in high-need or rural areas of Nevada. The typical contract requires 2 years of service in exchange for loan repayment assistance. The State of Nevada does not set specific repayment amounts. Instead, they base it on a case-by-case basis.

  • New Jersey
    The Primary Care Practitioner Loan Redemption Program of New Jersey provides eligible doctors working in underserved areas with up to $120,000 in loan repayment funds over a period of 4 years. This program does not have any deadlines and applications are accepted year-round.

  • New Mexico
    The Health Professional Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayment funds in exchange for 2 years of service in a Health Care Professional Shortage Area in New Mexico. Eligible doctors are able to receive up to $25,000 per year to apply towards their outstanding student loans based on the availability of funds at the time of application.

  • North Carolina
    The North Carolina Medical Society Foundation Community Practitioner Program provides primary care doctors working in high-need areas with help with educational loans. In exchange, they ask for a 5-year commitment in a high-need area. The amount of the repayment varies by year and the amount of debt you carry. However, the average maximum is around $70,000 in loan repayment funds.

  • North Dakota
    Physicians willing to serve in high-need areas in North Dakota may receive up to $150,000 in loan repayment with a 5-year service agreement. The Health Care Professional Student Loan Repayment Program provides the funds alongside a commitment from the community to contribute a portion of the funds.

  • Ohio
    The Ohio Physician Loan Repayment Program helps increase the presence of primary care health professionals in underserved areas. In exchange for your service, you may be eligible to receive up to $25,000 per year for a 2-year service agreement working on a full-time basis. If you extend your service and have outstanding loans, you may be eligible to receive up to $35,000 per year for an additional 2 years of service.

  • Oklahoma
    The Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program provides eligible doctors with a maximum of $160,000 in loan repayment over a period of four years. If you are eligible, based on your service, you may receive up to $25,000 during the first year of service, $35,000 for the second year, $45,000 for the third year of service, and $55,000 for the fourth year. Your eligibility is determined at the end of each year to determine if you completed the service requirements.

  • Oregon
    The Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program encourages health professionals to work in high-need areas. In exchange, doctors may receive a percentage of their outstanding loan balance forgiven. The amount you receive depends on the rating of the area you work (how high is their need for help) and the amount of debt outstanding. If you work in a very high-need area, you could receive up to 20% of your outstanding loan balance forgiven per year. If you serve in a moderate-need area, you may receive up to 15% of your balance per year, and serving in any other area may leave you with the ability to receive up to 10% of your balance forgiven per year.

  • Pennsylvania
    Primary care physicians working full-time in a shortage area may receive up to $100,000 in loan repayment funds with the Pennsylvania Primary Health Care Loan Repayment Program. You must commit to a 2-year service agreement, but you can extend the contract if you still have outstanding loans. If you work half-time, you are eligible to receive up to $50,000 in loan repayment.

  • Rhode Island
    The Rhode Island Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program provides you with funds to pay back your loans in exchange for your service in areas that lack primary care services. You must work in direct patient care for a minimum of 2 years to qualify. The amount you receive depends on your service and the availability of funds at the time.

  • South Carolina
    The South Carolina Rural Physician Incentive Grant Program provides doctors with up to $25,000 per year of service for up to 4 years. Doctors must practice in areas with a population of less than 50,000 in order to qualify. Doctors working in rural areas with more than 50,000 people may earn up to $15,000 per year for loan repayment.

  • South Dakota
    The South Dakota Recruitment Assistance Program provides loan repayment to eligible doctors serving in rural communities that commit to 3 years of service in the area. In order to qualify, you must sign a contract with the South Dakota Department of Health. In exchange, you could receive up to $208,754 (twice the cost of the resident tuition of a medical student at the University Of South Dakota School Of Medicine).

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If you hate the idea of sending a big online payment to the cable or satellite TV company every month, join the crowd. We love our TV, but we hate paying big bucks for it.

That's why so many people have such glee in their voices when they utter the phrase, "cord cutting." The process of cord cutting involves canceling your cable or satellite TV service.

You then can pick up your TV signal through an over-the-air antenna or through a bundled streaming service, which comes into your home over your Internet connection. (We know that most people receive an Internet signal into their homes over a cord, but we'll let this technicality slide, because "cord cutting" feels so good when you say it.)

One of the most well-known bundled streaming TV services is Sling TV. It has multiple tiers of service, allowing you to save plenty of money while still receiving a chunk of your favorite channels. We'll help you figure out whether Sling TV's offerings will satisfy your entertainment needs.

How Sling Works

Sling TV is a streaming Internet service (you may also hear the terms skinny bundle or streaming TV bundle). This means the television signals arrive in your home over your Internet connection, rather than through a satellite TV or cable TV connection.

Sling TV offers a much more streamlined lineup of pay-TV channels versus a typical cable or satellite package, so it can be offered at a lower price. A skinny bundle doesn't have a bunch of taxes or hardware fees associated with it either, allowing for a lower price point.

The DISH Network satellite service owns and offers the Sling TV service, much like DirecTV offers the DirecTV NOW skinny bundle service. There are other skinny bundles available too, as we'll outline later.

You won't have a set-top box with Sling TV, but you may need some hardware to receive the signal. Sling TV will run over an app on an iOS or Android mobile device, or you can run it over a traditional large screen TV with hardware like Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Xbox One, Google Chromecast, or Roku, among others.

Sling TV Tiers

Sling TV offers tiered TV, where you pick the tiers that contain the channels you want. A few packages are available with Sling:

  • Sling Orange ($20 per month). Has 30 channels, including ESPN, Disney, and Comedy Central. This tier only supports one single stream.

  • Sling Blue ($25 per month). Has 45 channels, including Fox Sports, NBC, and National Geographic. This tier supports 3 streams at once.

  • Sling Orange + Blue ($5 discount). You also have the option of buying both services. You'll receive a $5 discount. With this option, Broadcast Extra is also included, where available.

We won't list all of the channels in each tier because they do change from time to time, so visit the Sling TV web site to see the current channel lineups.

Beyond that, you can add bundles for $5+ per month in categories like sports, news, comedy, lifestyle, kids, movies, and Spanish language, as well as premium subscription channels.

Some of the tiers have frustrating overlaps of channels. But rest assured, most of the popular cable and satellite TV channels are available in a tier somewhere on Sling TV.

Reasons to Subscribe to Sling TV

  1. It's cheap. Most people make the switch to a service like Sling because they're looking to save money on their pay-TV monthly bill. With the basic tier starting at only $20 per month, it can be a huge savings over a satellite or cable bill that often tops $100 per month.

  2. You hate extra fees. Cable and satellite TV providers do an excellent job of hiding extra fees in the bill for things like HD service, interactive digital guides, hardware usage, and taxes. You won't have to worry about these extra fees for Sling TV. You will have to provide your own hardware - and your own Internet connection, of course, which may have its own collection of hidden fees - but extra fees on the bill aren't a part of the Sling TV subscription.

  3. You don't want a contract. If you dislike the idea of being locked into your TV service for 12 or 24 months, Sling TV is a great idea. With skinny bundles and streaming TV services, you can start the service or cancel at any time with no worries about being hit with a huge disconnection fee.

  4. You like being able to watch content on multiple screens. Beyond running the programming on a large screen TV, it's easier than ever to watch your Sling TV programming on a mobile device or on a computer screen, as the service runs directly inside a web browser window now. It also has an app for use with mobile devices.

    The Orange service only allows one stream. You can watch on only one device at a time. The Blue service allows up to 3 streams, so multi-person households can watch on 3 different devices at once.

  5. You like the idea of creating your own package. On top of the two basic tiers, Sling offers so many different mini-bundles that you're really in control of your TV channel lineup. You have a lot of different options available.

  6. You can catch a show you missed. A lot of channels have a 3-day replay feature. You can replay content that has aired in the past three days. So if you missed a show, you still have a chance to catch up. But this is not available for all channels.

  7. You want a DVR type of service. Sling TV doesn't have the traditional DVR hardware you'd find with satellite or cable service, but it does offer a cloud DVR storage option. For now, you can save up to 50 hours' worth of programming to your cloud account (but it does cost an extra $5/month). This function is not available on all channels.

  8. You like a try-before-you-buy option. For new subscribers, you can test Sling TV for 7 days for free. If you cancel within the free period, you will pay nothing. This is a great way to test the service on your Internet service and hardware to see whether you have a reliable enough signal to give you a good experience.

  9. You want to make account changes without a phone call. If you don't like spending time on hold and speaking to a cable or satellite salesperson trying to upsell you, you'll love the ability to make all changes to your Sling TV account - including changing your package tiers - online with no hassles.
Reasons to Consider Other Pay-TV Options

  • You don't have a fast Internet connection for streaming: One of the biggest frustrations for Sling customers is spotty connection quality and service. If you don't have an exceptionally reliable and fast Internet connection, the video skips and intermittent outages will be incredibly frustrating. Those who live in rural areas almost certainly will not have a reliable enough Internet connection to use Sling at an acceptable level. Some high-demand programming, such as the college football championship game, has had reliability issues in the past as well.

  • You rely on search and guides for finding programming. There's no interactive, TV guide available through Sling TV like you'll find with cable or satellite TV. And the service's search feature is not overly accurate. This can be a major frustration for a lot of people.

  • You're not handy with hardware. If you don't feel comfortable setting up your own account and figuring out how to make your hardware work with Sling TV, you may not like skinny bundles. There's no technician you can call to come out to do the setup process for you. Fortunately, the hardware requirements are extremely simple with Sling, meaning even those with an aversion to technology can probably handle the process.

  • You want local channels. Sling TV offers local channels in some locations, but not a lot of them. To receive those channels, you'll need an over-the-air antenna. The service is adding more areas for local channels constantly, though.
Other Streaming Services to Consider

If you would like to look beyond Sling, there are many different options for streaming services that should help you find an exact service that can meet your needs.

  • Amazon Prime: If you need further evidence that Amazon is taking over the world, we present Amazon Prime. This is the same service that gives you free two-day shipping on any of your purchases from Amazon. As an added benefit, you receive Amazon Video downloads. Amazon has greatly expanded its offerings of original programming for streaming. However, if you're looking for live TV on popular channels like AMC or ESPN, Amazon Prime does not offer this.

  • DirecTV Now: DirecTV Now is one of the most extensive streaming services available, offering a wide range of popular channels in many different categories at a lower price than the full DirecTV service. DirecTV Now has added local channels for many locations in the United States, and it's adding cloud DVR service and 4K programming in the near future.

  • FuboTV Premier: FuboTV works best for sports fans, as you will receive numerous regional sports networks that carry the local pro teams. You'll also receive channels like FX and SyFy. Adding channels like NFL Network will cost a bit extra.

  • Hulu Live: The Hulu Live streaming service builds on the original Hulu service, which carries a lot of older TV shows. But Hulu Live now carries live programming from several popular channels, including A&E, FX, Disney, and ESPN. It has local channels available in a limited number of locations now, but it is steadily increasing this number.

  • Netflix: Netflix is similar to Amazon Prime, offering a lot of original programming, including extremely popular shows like Orange Is the New Black and Stranger Things. It doesn't have live pay-TV channels, but it has an extensive collection of older TV shows and movies that you can stream.

  • Philo: This newer streaming service is the anti-sports service, offering channels like A&E, AMC, and HGTV, but no ESPN. It has two tiers of channels so you can find just the right price point.

  • PlayStation Vue: If you already own a PlayStation gaming system, Vue is a perfect streaming system for you, as it runs through the gaming hardware. There are multiple programming packages available with live pay-TV channels, but some of the upper tiers can be pretty pricey. This service has several locations where it is offering local channels.

  • YouTube TV: The newer YouTube TV has live TV channels and looks to compete with DirecTV Now, Vue, and Sling. Because this service is so new, its channel lineups are in a bit of flux. You will receive stations like Disney, ESPN, and USA for now, but more channels are on the way.
Frequently Asked Questions

Are there local news channels?
Live local broadcast is only available in select markets. It also depends on if you have the Orange or Blue package. Orange customers can get ABC for an additional fee per month. Blue customers can get FOX and NBC in select markets. Outside of those markets, FOX and NBC are on-demand only.

Are there commercials?
Yes. Sling TV is like a streamed-down version of regular live TV. So it has all the commercials that a regular cable or satellite TV service would have. You cannot skip commercials unless you have the cloud DVR.

Is there on-demand content?
Sling does have on-demand videos, available on select channels. If a channel has on-demand videos, it will show up in the channel details. The content is determined by the individual channels. The channel decides what's available and for how long, so you may see videos come and go.

Are there on-demand movies?
Sling also offers the option to rent movies for an additional fee. Their library has everything from older movies and new releases. The rental price varies based on the movie.

Are there regional sports channels?
Blue customers receive FOX Regional Sports Networks based on their billing zip code. Note: your Regional Sports Network may blackout certain games, as the blackout rules are determined by the leagues, sports associations, and networks that purchase the rights to the broadcasts.

Bottom Line

If you want to save some money on your cable or satellite TV bill, the Sling TV streaming bundle should make your short list. Sling has a multitude of different options, allowing you to set up your channel lineup however you want. Sure, you'll probably still end up with a few channels you don't want, but Sling brings you as close to setting up your own channel lineup as any service out there.

It's also one of the least expensive, at least for the basic tier. Having the option of starting your bundled streaming service for as low as $20 per month is pretty nice. After all, we're guessing you want to consider a streaming service because you're trying to save a lot of money over your full service cable bill. Most people will end up spending more than $20, however, once they start adding in the extra tiers.

We'd like to see Sling TV have a more reliable signal, as its inability to run adequately at times on even average Internet connection speeds and streaming stick hardware is the biggest complaint. However, because of the low starting price Sling offers, we'd recommend you at least try the free trial period. If you can make the service run reliably over your Internet service, the ability to put together your own channel lineup makes this one of the better streaming skinny bundle services you'll find.

Sling TV Review: Cut the Cord... and Your Budget appeared first on CreditDonkey

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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The $300 annual credit is one of the best Chase Sapphire Reserve travel benefits. Learn what purchases count as travel, how to redeem the credit, and when it resets.

Chase Sapphire Reserve has established itself among the top-tier travel credit cards, with a 50,000 point bonus, long list of travel perks and benefits, and selection of airline and hotel transfer partners. The card's many perks and benefits can help to balance out its $450 annual fee, with $300 in annual travel credits doing most of the heavy lifting.

For frequent travelers who are likely to use their travel credits in full each year, this perk can effectively offset the annual fee.

Cardholders can also sign up for the Reserve's other cost-saving perks - such as Priority Pass membership and credit towards the TSA Pre or Global Entry application fee - to get the most of the $450 annual fee.

Is the $450 too much? Compare Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve to see which credit card should you apply for.

So how do you know if you'll be able to take advantage of those $300 annual travel credits, and how do you redeem them? Read on for details.

What purchases are eligible for travel credits?

Luckily, when compared to other credit cards that issue travel credits, Chase is liberal in what it considers to be a travel purchase.

The AMEX Platinum Card (from American Express, a CreditDonkey partner) offers up to $200 annually in statement credits against incidentals with one selected airline - and the user must designate their airline in advance.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, your $300 in travel credits can be redeemed against the cost of your tickets, fees, and upgrades with any airline (although in-flight purchases are not covered), whether they're charged by you or by an authorized user.

Outside of flying, the Reserve's travel credits cover a wide range of transportation and hospitality options:

Merchants in the travel category include airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.

Please note that some merchants that provide transportation and travel-related services are not included in this category; for example, real estate agents, in-flight goods and services, on-board cruise line goods and services, sightseeing activities, excursions, tourist attractions, merchants within hotels and airports, and merchants that rent vehicles for the purpose of hauling. In addition, the purchasing of points or miles does not qualify in this category.

(Source: Chase Rewards Category FAQ's)

Tip: When Chase says that hotels and taxis are included in this category, they're being generous; with Chase, Airbnb stays and Uber rides also fall under the travel category.

Not only are expenses in the travel category eligible for travel credit redemption; they'll earn you 3x points when you charge them to your Sapphire Reserve card. And with your rewards points on the Reserve worth 1.5 cents each when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, that value can add up quickly.

Tip: When you charge a rental car to your Sapphire Reserve, you'll earn 3x points on the purchase, be able to redeem available travel statement credits against it, and save on insurance with the rental company by taking advantage of the Reserve's primary collision insurance for eligible rental cars. Coverage applies to most auto rentals, but check the fine print for exceptions.
Will I still earn points on travel purchases?

Yes. When you receive statement credits against a travel purchase on your Reserve card, you'll still accumulate 3x points for that spending. This includes purchases made to meet the spending minimum for the Reserve's 50,000-point sign-up bonus.

How do I redeem travel credits?

Travel credits are issued at the beginning of each cardmember year for applications submitted on or after May 21, 2017. Once Chase issues them, your travel credits will automatically be applied to your account as you charge eligible purchases - so you won't need to call in or file a request to redeem credits.

This makes travel credit redemption remarkably easy with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it also makes it easy to lose track of how many travel credits you've used.

If you're planning to use your credits for a flight or other large travel expense, remember that smaller charges - like parking garages, highway tolls, and taxis - can chip away at your store of travel credits in the meantime.

What about authorized users?

All travel purchases made by you and by your account's authorized users are eligible. Keep in mind that authorized users won't get their own $300 in travel credit - you'll be drawing from the same pool of travel credit.

Adding an authorized user to your Sapphire Reserve account costs $75 per year per authorized user.

Bottom Line

The Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 Travel Credit is a great benefit.

Tip: Consider pooling Chase Sapphire Reserve rewards with the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Ink Business Preferred to maximize your credit card point earning potential.

Chase Sapphire Reserve: Travel Credit appeared first on CreditDonkey

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Chase. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Chase. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: This content was first published on March 18, 2018. Information including APR, terms and benefits may vary, be out of date, or not applicable to you. Information is provided without warranty. Please check Chase website for updated information.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

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Chase Freedom Unlimited may not be a good travel partner. Here's what you need to know about its foreign transaction fees.

If you use the Chase Freedom Unlimited, it's probably your go-to card for everyday spending. But will this card still be as useful while you're abroad?

In this article, we'll break down how the Chase Freedom Unlimited foreign transaction fee works. We'll also offer some alternatives for what you can do to avoid this fee while abroad.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Overview

Although the Freedom Unlimited isn't one of Chase's dedicated travel rewards cards, it does come with some nice rewards. Here's how it works:

Chase Freedom Unlimited can be a great card for your regular everyday spending. But you probably won't want to make it your go-to for spending abroad. If you do, this card's foreign transaction fee might make a sizeable dent in your vacation savings.

What Is a Foreign Transaction Fee?

Foreign transaction fees (FTFs) are, in a sense, exactly what they sound like. If your card comes with this fee, you'll have to pay extra to the bank for every transaction you make with outside of the United States.

That means that your meals, hotels, transportations, and shopping abroad can all come with an extra fee. In fact, you don't even have to be abroad to accrue foreign transaction fees. Even making online purchases with non-U.S. based retailers - like some foreign airlines - can come with a FTF.

Banks will typically charge as much as 3%. That's small enough that it might not deter you from making a few minor purchases, but high enough that it can quickly become frustrating. For example, between hotels, bus rides, tours, and eating out, most of us could easily charge $1,000 during a trip. That could rack up an additional $30 in fees.

FTFs show up as separate charges on your credit card statement. So when you get home, it'll be easy (and depressing) to calculate exactly how much you wasted on fees.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Foreign Transaction Fee

While it might be the perfect everyday card, the Freedom Unlimited does come with a foreign transaction fee: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. That might not exactly break the bank. Still, no one wants to spend their vacation savings on bank fees.

In short, this everyday spending card might need to take a week (or two) off during your next international trip.

Not to worry - there are plenty of international travel-friendly credit cards out there. If you carry multiple credit cards, it could be worth taking a few minutes to see if you have any cards with no foreign transaction fee.

Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees with These Cards

If you're looking for a cashback card you can take abroad, there are some other comparable cards with no FTF. These cards have no annual fees either:

Other Chase Cards with No FTF

Or you can look into applying for a new Chase card. The bank offers several cards that earn travel rewards and have no foreign transaction fee. Here's how they stack up:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred: The Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular midrange travel reward cards out there, and for good reason. It offers a huge sign-up bonus, and you can earn extra points on travel and dining purchases.

  2. Chase Sapphire Reserve: The Sapphire Reserve is the luxury equivalent of the Sapphire Preferred. This card is geared toward frequent and/or luxury travelers, with a high annual fee and a long, long list of top-tier travel perks and benefits.

  3. Chase Ink Business Preferred: If you're looking for a business credit card, the Ink Preferred is for you. It earns extra points on travel - among (many) other spending categories - and offers a valuable sign-up bonus.

Tip: If you use two Chase Ultimate Rewards cards - like the Freedom Unlimited and one of the premium cards above - you'll be able to combine your Ultimate Rewards points between your cards. You can transfer points from your Freedom Unlimited to one of Chase's travel cards to take advantage of a higher redemption rate on booking travel through Ultimate Rewards, or you can transfer your points to Chase airline and hotel partners.
Bottom Line

The Chase Freedom Unlimited can be a handy card for earning rewards on your regular spending. But in the travel arena, it doesn't shine. There are a couple of other options for cashback cards with no foreign transaction fee. Chase also offers some travel rewards cards that not only have no FTFs, but make great companions for the Freedom Unlimited.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Foreign Transaction Fee appeared first on CreditDonkey

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Chase. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Chase. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: This content was first published on March 17, 2018. Information including APR, terms and benefits may vary, be out of date, or not applicable to you. Information is provided without warranty. Please check Chase website for updated information.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ and Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve are great for travel as they both have no foreign transaction fees. But there are some differences you need to know. Read on before you take off.

Chase offers 2 cards in their Sapphire family: the Preferred and Reserve. Neither card has a foreign transaction fee. They offer good rewards, great redemption value, and useful travel benefits. In this article, we'll explain which Chase Sapphire is better for you.

Note: Chase does have a third card in the family - the no-annual-fee Sapphire card. It is no longer available to new applicants, but you can downgrade the Preferred or Reserve to it. However, this card has a 3% foreign transaction fee.
What Is a Foreign Transaction Fee?

Many banks charge a foreign transaction fee (FTF) for purchases made abroad - usually 3% of your purchase. Anytime you use your card abroad, you'll be paying an additional 3%.

This can add up to a lot. If you charge $1,000 on food, shopping, and activities on your trip, that's an extra $30 in fees.

A credit card with no FTF will save you from these unnecessary fees. This is the best option for making purchases abroad.

In comparison, foreign ATMs will incur high ATM fees, while currency exchanges usually have terrible exchange rates.

Sapphire Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee

Luckily, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve do not have a FTF. Here are overviews of the Preferred and Reserve cards:

Which One Is Better for You?

If you're more of a casual traveler, start with the Sapphire Preferred. The much smaller annual fee is easier to swallow. The sign-up bonus is very generous for the annual fee.

If you travel often, the Sapphire Reserve will usually come out ahead for you. The 3x on travel and dining will allow you to rack up points faster. And the better value on the Ultimate Rewards travel portal means bigger savings. Frequent travelers will also love the luxury perks, like lounge access through Priority Pass Select.

See our detailed comparison and analysis of the two cards.

Other Chase Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fee

Besides the Sapphire cards, Chase has several other travel cards with no foreign transaction fees. See if one of these may be a better fit for you instead. Here are some of our other favorites:

  • If you fly United:

  • If you fly Southwest:

  • If you stay with Marriott:
Bottom Line

Either Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve card will make an ideal companion for trips abroad. Neither card has that dreaded foreign transaction fee. So you can feel free to pay for hotels, dine, shop, and go on fun tours… all without worrying about extra foreign transaction fees.

Which Chase Sapphire Has No Foreign Transaction Fee? appeared first on CreditDonkey

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Chase. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Chase. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, United MileagePlus Explorer Card, and Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Ritani gives you more confidence by allowing you to preview your ring in person before buying it. Sounds promising, but is this online jeweler good? Read on.

If you're someone who's nervous about buying diamonds from an online retailer, we understand. This is a significant purchase involving a type of item where miniscule differences in the stones account for significant differences in price. Not having the ability to inspect those differences in person can generate a nervous feeling.

That's one area where the online diamond retailer Ritani sets itself apart. It allows you to actually preview your ring in person before you take it home. This helps you make this important purchase with more confidence.

Read on to see what makes Ritani unique.

Free In-Store Preview

Ritani uses what the company calls a "clicks-and-bricks" model. They partner with a lot of retailers throughout the United States and Canada. You can purchase a Ritani ring online and preview it at a local jeweler.

Here's how it works:

  • Pick out your diamond or design a ring on Ritani's website.
  • Choose "Free in-store preview."
  • Ritani artisans will handcraft your ring in New York and ship it to a local jeweler near you for free.
  • Your credit card secures your preview reservation.
  • Go to your local jeweler to view your ring in person. If you love it, take it home with you that day. If you don't like it, just walk away and your credit card hold is released.

Ritani wants its customers to be completely confident in their purchases. That's why they offer this in-store preview for free. There is no obligation to buy.

This system gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to diamond shopping. You can look through the extensive selection of options on the Ritani website on your own time. And once you've made your choice, you can see it in person in-store, which lets you have peace of mind about your purchase.

Plenty of Choices

Ritani's website will make it easy to design the ring you want. Here's what you can find:

  • Over 75,000 loose diamonds in all 10 popular shapes (round, princess, cushion, oval, emerald, and others).
  • Loose diamonds are all either GIA or AGS certified.
  • Over 350 engagement ring settings. Styles include solitaire, halo, three-stone, pave, and vintage designs.
  • 5 metal options, including platinum, 18kt and 14kt white gold, 18k yellow gold, and 18k rose gold.
  • Complete bridal sets, weddings rings, and men's wedding bands.
  • Other fine jewelry, including earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. You can also build your own diamond pendant or earrings.

Did you know: Ritani, founded in 1999, is based in both New York City (where it creates its own jewelry) and Seattle.
10 Reasons to Use Ritani

  1. You want an in-person inspection. As we already discussed, this "clicks-and-bricks" feature is very unique in the online diamond business. With other online retailers, your only choice is to buy the ring and get it shipped to you. If you don't like it, you'll have to go through the hassle of returning it. Ritani allows you to preview the ring in person before committing.

  2. You want to create your own ring. You can design your own ring on the Ritani website. You can even select a diamond first and then work your way through creating a setting that will fit with that diamond. The Ritani website makes the process of creating your own ring easy and foolproof.

    Tip: You can save your favorite diamonds and settings for future visits to the Ritani site. Just create an account, and you can then store your favorite options in the My Wish List feature. Sign in again on a return visit, and your product selections will be stored for you to look at again.

  3. You want a high-quality setting. Ritani doesn't carry as many settings as some other online jewelry retailers. However, the company prides itself on its high craftsmanship. Every ring is handcrafted and made to order in their New York studio. Ritani originally made its mark through its ability to create a multitude of unique ring settings, and it still carries that strength.

  4. You want an expert opinion. You can select up to four diamonds from Ritani's website, and then request a consultation with an expert gemologist. The gemologist will inspect and review the diamonds with you, and provide HD videos and detailed reports. He will help you make the best choice. This is all completely free of charge.

  5. You want a well-organized website. Overall, we think you'll like shopping on the Ritani site. The navigation and organization on this site is extremely good, making it easy for you to find the exact stone you want to use. Searches are easy, checkout is easy, and customers love the shipping experience.

  6. You want a friendly return policy. Among online diamond retailers, Ritani has one of the most customer-friendly return policies. It offers 30-day free returns. As long as you follow all of the rules, you can return your purchase for a full refund. The return shipping is free and there is no restocking fee. Ritani even covers the return insurance. The company can schedule a FedEx pickup, so you don't have to travel anywhere to return the package.

    Note: Eternity rings and engraved jewelry cannot be returned.

  7. You want the lowest price. Ritani has a Diamond Price Match Program. If you see a comparable diamond priced lower at another retailer, Ritani will attempt to match the price. Certain criteria must all be identical, including the certification, 4C's, fluorescence, symmetry, etc.

  8. You want a sharp-looking gift box. Part of the ring presentation should include a high-quality gift box. After all, a diamond is a luxury item, and it's important that the gift box showcase that item well. Ritani rings come in an elegant leather box with a gray satin interior. And if you're planning to use this box to propose, it has the classic snap-top shape that will allow you to open it dramatically as you ask that life-changing question.

  9. You want lifetime care. Ritani's lifetime cleaning service is outstanding. Because it has partnerships with jewelers all across the US, don't need to send your ring back for cleaning. Just go to your local Ritani-partnered jeweler for complimentary cleanings.

    Ritani also offers a lifetime warranty against all manufacturing defects.

    Should you want to trade in an old diamond for a new one down the road, Ritani has a really nice trade-in policy. You'll receive a 100% credit when you trade in your first diamond, as long as you buy a new diamond that costs at least 50% more than the original diamond's value.

  10. You're seeking educational articles. If you want to learn more about diamonds and all the different terminology, you should start with the Credit Donkey series of articles. But if you still want more information after that, Ritani has a very strong educational area that will give you all the basics on shopping for diamonds. Additionally, it contains a section on the latest trends regarding diamond styles.

Reasons to Avoid Ritani

  • You want lots of HD videos of products. When shopping online for something as expensive and detailed as a diamond, you will want to see an HD video of the individual stone, allowing you to examine it from many different angles. However, Ritani doesn't offer HD videos for as many of its diamonds as we'd like to see. And you cannot filter your search parameters to only look for those diamonds with HD video.

    Tip: If being able to "see" the diamonds during the shopping process is especially important to you, head on over to James Allen. James Allen provides stunning HD videos of every diamond in its collection.

  • You want lots of high-resolution photos of products. We have the same complaint with the number of the images of stones on the website. We understand that it's certainly a lot of work to create a large library of high resolution images, but we'd sure like to see more of these types of photos available on the Ritani site to allow for extensive inspection of the stones.

  • Not always the lowest prices. Ritani is not known for having the best prices. Their settings are generally more expensive than other retailers'. Some of their stones are priced very competitively, but others are out of line versus competitors. But Ritani does have Diamond Match Price if you see another stone with identical specs.

  • You want the best quality diamond. Ritani has a collection of Reserve Diamonds. These are supposed to be Ritani's super ideal cut diamonds - meaning they have been cut for maximum brilliance. However, these diamonds aren't always impressive enough to justify the higher price tag.

    Tip: If you're after a top-notch diamond that really shines, check out Whiteflash instead. This online retailer is known for its world-class, super ideal diamonds.

How it Compares

If you want a large selection:

If you want a super ideal cut diamond:

Bottom Line

We applaud Ritani's customer-oriented practices. Ritani really sets itself apart with the in-person preview option. This gives shoppers a lot more confidence when making such a huge purchase online.

However, Ritani does fall short in their lack of HD videos and photographs. This may make your choice harder. But it does try to make up for it by offering free expert consultation and in-person preview.

Ritani Review: Good Place to Buy Engagement Ring? appeared first on CreditDonkey

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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Synchrony Bank is a popular online bank. But is it good for you? Read this review before you open an account.

Operating as a savings and lending institution, Synchrony Bank is not your typical full-service bank.

Banking at Synchrony Bank gives you access to deposit accounts, credit cards, and healthcare spending opportunities. You won't see traditional checking accounts or Visa credit cards. What you will see is savings, money markets, and CD options as well as store brand credit cards.

Synchrony Bank claims to have some of the highest APYs and lowest fees in the industry, but that may come at a price.

Keep reading to see how Synchrony Bank stacks up in our eyes.

Services Offered

You'll find several deposit products and lending opportunities at Synchrony Bank.

Synchrony Bank offers CDs with a choice of terms with higher-than-average interest rates.

Did you know: You get a 10-day grace period after maturity to allocate the funds before it rolls into another CD

Money Market
If you want the flexibility of check writing, the Synchrony Bank Money Market may be a good option.

Did you know: you can make up to 6 withdrawals or transfers per month (ATM withdrawals don't count)

High Yield Savings
Similar to the Money Market Account, Synchrony Bank's high yield savings offers slightly higher interest rates without the access to check writing privileges.

Did you know: You get an ATM card with Synchrony Bank's High Yield Savings Account.

Synchrony Bank's IRA CDs are similar to their standard CDs with IRA rules, though.

IRA Money Market
The Synchrony Bank IRA Money Market has the same features as the standard Money Market but with IRA rules.

Credit Cards
Synchrony Bank partners with thousands of retailers across the US to give you more purchasing power, low interest rates, and loyalty benefits.

They partner with brands like Amazon, JCPenney, Lowes, and Sam's Club, just to name a few. You'll see the store's name on the credit card, but it's run by Synchrony Bank. You make your payments, request credit line increases, and handle all customer service inquiries through Synchrony.

Synchrony Bank also offers CareCredit - a solution to paying out-of-pocket healthcare expenses that insurance doesn't cover. More than 200,000 providers participate in the program, giving you more flexible options than a standard credit card.

CareCredit gives you access to terms ranging from 6 to 24 months with no interest as long as you make minimum payments each month. You must also pay the balance off within the allotted period or interest will accrue from day one. If you have major healthcare expenses, they offer terms up to 60 months with low APR options.

Reasons We Like Synchrony Bank

  • You don't need to maintain a minimum balance in their deposit products. While larger deposits earn you more money, Synchrony Bank only has minimum deposit requirements for their CDs. In addition, their CDs often boast higher APYs than other banks offer.

  • You won't pay service fees for their deposit products. It's rare to find deposit products that don't charge some type of fee, whether minimum balance fees, service fees, or otherwise. Synchrony also does not charge for excessive withdrawals over the 6-month limit.

  • You can receive benefits just for saving. Synchrony Bank offers "perks" for customers with high balances and long-term loyalty. The more you save and the longer you save it, the more you earn. Some of the perks include hotel and rental car discounts, restaurant offers, and value-added amenities. You accumulate the points just by saving your money in their accounts.

  • You'll automatically receive identity theft services. Each customer of Synchrony Bank's deposit products is automatically enrolled in Identity Theft Resolution Services by CyberScout.

  • You can use any ATM with Plus or Acel logos. Synchrony does not charge you for using any ATM with the Plus or Acela logo. If the bank owning the ATM charges you, Synchrony will reimburse you the fees up to $5 per month. As you climb higher on the "Perks" tier, you can reach unlimited reimbursement status.

  • You may receive special financing options or loyalty perks with a Synchrony Bank credit card. The stores offering Synchrony bank credit cards often have interest-free financing or special discounts for Synchrony cardholders.
Reasons We Think You Might Want to Skip Synchrony Bank

  • There's only one physical branch. If you prefer in-person bank transactions, you won't like Synchrony Bank. They operate mostly online, with the exception of their one branch in New Jersey. All transactions must take place online, via ATM, or wire transfer.

  • They don't offer checking accounts. Synchrony Bank doesn't have the services of a full-service bank. They are a savings bank with the option to take out a store-specific credit card. The closest you will get to a checking account is the Money Market account. You can request checks for this account; the first set is usually free.

  • Their mobile options leave a lot to be desired. As an online bank, you'd think Synchrony would have more options, such as mobile check deposit or a mobile app. You can access their full website online on your phone, but you won't find an app for their deposit products, just their credit cards.
Customer Service

Synchrony Bank gives you 24/7 access to their automated system to check on your accounts. If you want to talk to a representative, you'll need to call Monday through Friday between 8 AM and 10 PM Eastern Time or Saturdays 8 AM to 5 PM Eastern Time.

You can reach Synchrony Bank at 1-866-226-5638.

If you have questions on your Synchrony Bank credit card, you should call the number on the back of your card, or look up the appropriate number here.

How it Compares

Ally: If you need a checking account with your other savings vehicles, Ally will serve your needs better. With free checking and no minimum deposit requirements for CDs, Ally is better for the smaller investor or investor who needs check writing privileges.

Barclay: You don't need a minimum opening balance at Barclay, just like Synchrony. The largest difference, though, is the lack of ATM privileges at Barclay. If you need access to your funds frequently, Synchrony will make your life that much easier with their ATMs located throughout the US.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs: With fewer products than Synchrony offers, Marcus by Goldman Sachs is a good option for investors who need just one product. However, without a Money Market or checking account option, you are left with high yield savings or CDs.

Bottom Line

Synchrony Bank offers several savings vehicle options with the ability to access your cash fast (despite its online presence). Their APYs are often among the higher rates in the industry, but their customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

If you can handle your own finances online without the help of a representative in person or outside of their normal operating hours, you may find that Synchrony meets your needs. If not, there are many other online banks you can choose from that may suit your requirements.

Synchrony Bank Review appeared first on CreditDonkey

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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Walking into a car dealer without pricing a car can be the biggest mistake you ever make. The more you know, the better deal you can get on a new car.

Keep reading to learn the simple tricks you can have up your sleeve before buying the car of your dreams.

Choose Your Car

Walking into a dealership not knowing which car you want is like going into the grocery store without a list. You'll easily get overwhelmed and you may end up buying a car you don't even want.

Before you step foot in a dealership, do your research. Learn all about any cars that peak your interest on the manufacturer's website. Learn about the standard and upgraded features. Create a list of features you need and those you want. There's a difference.

Next, consult with third-party websites. Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds are reputable choices. On these websites, you'll get expert reviews, lists of the pros and cons, and an estimated value for your area. At this point, don't focus on the price. You have not narrowed down the car you want just yet.

Create a list of the cars you think might be a good fit for you. With that list in hand, it's time to head to the dealer.

Take a Test Drive

At this point, you're not heading to the dealer to negotiate a price. Don't even talk pricing yet. You are still in research mode.

There's no way to know for sure if a car suits you until you drive it. Head to your local dealership(s) and drive each car you think may fit your needs. Let the salesperson know you are just in the test-drive/research mode. They may lay off slightly on their sales tactics if they know you are not a serious buyer just yet.

Don't open Pandora's Box and talk money at all during this process. Focus strictly on the car, how it feels, and what you like and don't like. Third-party reviews are great, but until you are in the driver's seat and feeling the car for yourself, you won't know what you like.

After you are done test driving cars, it's time to narrow down your choices. Weigh the pros and cons of each car and how it affects your lifestyle. Once you choose the car you want the most, you'll focus on it for the remainder of the process.

Do Your Research

Now the real work begins. You know what car you want - it's time to figure out the best price. You'll be back at your computer for this step.

Again, you'll want to use Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds. This time, you should be as specific as possible, down to the color of the car. Each choice has an impact on the value for the area.

Tip: When looking at Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds, use zip codes of any town you'd drive to if you could get a better deal. You never know when a few towns over might save you money on your car purchase.

Once you have an average cost for your area, head to the manufacturer's website again. Look for any incentives they offer. You may see cash back offers or special financing options. Each manufacturer sets their own criteria. Make sure you read the fine print to see how you would qualify.

Did you know: Car manufacturers tend to offer the best incentives at the early and late parts of the year. During the first few months, you'll see incentives on last year's model. So in the first few months of 2017, you'll likely see large incentives on 2016 models.

During the last few months of the year, you'll tend to see more incentives on that year's model. The end of this year will likely bring many incentives on the 2018 models.

Manufacturers offer the incentives in order to clear the lots of the older models to make way for new models.

Your final step is to figure out the supply and demand of the vehicle. How fast are they flying off the dealer's lot? Cars in hot demand mean less room for negotiation. A dealer won't be desperate to get it off their lot. Cars in less demand mean more room for negotiation. The dealer will be eager to make a deal with you. Create a list of the dealers that have your vehicle along with their contact information - you'll need it in the next step.

Armed with this information, it's time to email the dealers.

Email the Dealers

Now you are ready for the first step in the negotiation process. Luckily, you aren't sitting face-to-face with a dealer just yet. You still get the comfort of sitting behind your computer. It's time to draft a very specific email to the dealers on your list.

In this email, you'll ask for a quote on the exact car you want. You should include all specifics you have gathered during your research. This includes the incentives you know that exist, the options and color you desire, and even the options you could live without.

Give the dealer a deadline for when you want to purchase the car by as well. This gets them moving on the quote. Once they know that you are a motivated buyer, they know you can go elsewhere if they don't respond in time.

No matter what you write, make sure you are as specific as possible.

Comparing Quotes

Once you have several quotes, read each one closely. Look for any differences in the quotes. For example, if one dealer provides a quote on a car with all of the features, yet another provides one with fewer features, you cannot compare them. Everything down to the color of the car should be the same.

Once you have your quotes, you have one last piece of information to share with the chosen dealer - your trade-in.

Keep the Trade-in Separate

Your trade-in should be a last resort topic with any dealer. Don't let them know you have one until you have a solid quote in hand. After you choose the dealer you'll buy the car from, you can let them in on your trade-in secret.

Letting the dealer know about your trade-in ahead of time can ruin your negotiation plans. If they offer you a higher price for your trade-in than you thought, you'll feel like you are getting a "great deal." You may pay less attention to the price of the car you purchase. The dealer comes out the winner in the end.

Again, it's important to do your research. Know what your trade-in is worth using Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds. See what others are getting for their car. Make sure you are honest about your car's condition. The trade-in value isn't based on the make, model, and year of the car alone. The condition of the car can increase or decrease its value.

The good thing about a trade-in is that the value will come right off the amount you borrow. This means less interest that you pay in the end.

Find the Right Financing

Once you have the deal you want, you still have more work ahead of you. The best-case scenario is to walk in with a pre-approval. It's as good as cash to the dealer. You don't have to worry about dealer financing or haggling after you have your car's price.

Having a bank's preapproval can also give you an advantage. The dealer may try to beat the rate the bank offered or will work with you on the price. They know you can go to any dealer and get the car you want. They can't lure you in with their new car financing.

The one exception to the rule is if you have great credit. The dealer may approve you for 0% financing. This is like paying cash for the car over an extended period. It doesn't cost you any more money for the loan. However, you should be ready for large monthly payments and a shorter term.

Consider what you can afford and again compare the sales prices. What you want to know is what the car will cost you in the end. This takes into consideration all interest charges you'll pay on the loan.

For comparison purposes, let's look at a 60-month, $25,000 loan:

  • 0% loan = $417/month payment
  • 4% loan = $460/month payment

$43 per month doesn't sound like a big deal. But when you think of paying an extra $43 per month for 60 months, the 4% rate costs you $2,580 more. That's $2,580 you can add to the price of your car.

Tip: Don't focus on monthly payment. Dealers can stretch out your term or lower your interest rate to make the payment lower. But they could also charge you more for the car. Rather than focusing on the monthly payment, look at the bottom line.
Prepare for Final Negotiations

Once you do all of the legwork, it's time for the final negotiation. This is when the deal goes down or you walk out the door. It's important to remove your emotions from this process. You must have in your head that you will walk out the door if the dealer won't give you the deal you know you can get.

With your knowledge in hand, you can tell the dealer you know exactly what is available. You know the going price for the car in your area, demand, your available financing options, and what you want.

If you don't want to do this in person, you can go through the internet department, asking for a final quote on the exact car you want from the dealer's lot. This gives you the chance to bargain with several dealers at once without leaving your home.

We recommend emailing the dealers that are the furthest away from your home first. Get a few quotes in hand, then walk into your local dealer with these quotes. Chances are they will match or beat it. Now you have the lowest price possible and you purchase your car from your local dealer, making future visits convenient for you.

Handling Yourself in the Finance Office

Just when you think the hard part is done, you have one more person to face - the finance manager. If you came with your own financing, you won't spend a lot of time in there. You'll already have the rate and term of your loan negotiated. There are other fees, though. The following fees are non-negotiable:

  • Sales tax
  • Licensing and title
  • Registration
  • Destination fee (manufacturer charged)

Many dealers tack on other fees that you can negotiate, though:

  • Documentation fees
  • Delivery fees (dealer charged)
  • Dealer fees
  • Acquisition fees
  • Advertising fees

If you see any fees outside of the tax, title, registration, or manufacturer's destination fee, negotiate. Find out the average costs for your area and call the dealer out on it. Don't be afraid to walk out of the deal even once you are in the finance office. Including these fees into your loan only increases the cost of the car in the end. If you have your own financing, you may have to pay the fees in cash up front.

The dealer may try to sell you add-ons as well. Again, do your research. Most add-ons can be done after market and on your own when you can pay cash. Even the extended warranty can be added after you already own the car.

The Bottom Line

It is possible to get the best deal on a new car. You just have to do the work. The more research and shopping you do, the better your chances of finding the lowest deal.

How to Get the Best Deal on a New Car appeared first on CreditDonkey

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