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Here are the best options to watch cricket online in the US. Read on to learn what each provider offers. Don't miss another game.

HOTSTAR US

Hotstar is a video streaming app which streams Indian TV shows, movies, and live sports. They feature content in eight Indian languages: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Kannada and Malayalam.

When it comes to sports, Hotstar features live telecasts of kabaddi, badminton, hockey, and most importantly, cricket.

The good thing about Hotstar is that it has exclusive broadcasting rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL). This means that you can only watch live broadcasts of the IPL games on Hotstar. It also streams the IPL in a variety of languages, such as Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Hindi and English.

However, if you're looking for cricket matches outside India or other international cricket tournaments, then consider Willow TV.

Willow TV

The Willow TV channel is a live 24/7 cricket channel in the USA and Canada. It has exclusive broadcasting rights to games by the International Cricket Council (ICC), The Board of Control for Cricket in India, Cricket Australia, Cricket South Africa, New Zealand Cricket, West Indies Cricket Board, Sri Lanka Cricket Board, Bangladesh Cricket Board, Cricket Zimbabwe and others.

Willow works together with satellite, cable, and IPTV providers to help feature their channel. Currently their partners include DISH Network, DIRECTV, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FIOS, Charter Communications, Bright House Networks and Cox.

If you just want to watch cricket, Willow TV offers a direct, standalone subscription too. You can go directly to their website to subscribe. To access the channel, just download the app for your smartphone or tablet, or log on to the site from any web browser.

Sling TV

Sling TV is an online streaming provider which features TV series and shows. Their most popular bundles are their English "Blue" and "Orange" packages, but they also offer Indian packages which feature shows in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Urdu, Bangla and Bengali.

Sling TV also offers a Willow TV subscription. The package has two channels - Willow TV HD and Willow XTRA. Both offer cricket content, featuring both live and recorded games.

The best part about Sling TV is that you won't have to choose a main subscription and add Willow TV after. They offer just the Willow TV package as a subscription by itself. You can subscribe per month, per six months, or annually.

ESPN+

ESPN+ is a new streaming service by ESPN. To be clear - it isn't a standalone app. It's currently inside the existing ESPN app, which can be installed on Android smartphones, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TVs, Fire Tablets, iPhones, and iPads. It also works on web browsers, so you can access it from any computer.

In terms of content, ESPN+ offers live games, studio series, and original programs. You can find live broadcasts of soccer, boxing, golf, tennis, rugby, and several college sports. They also stream live cricket games, featuring matches across Test, ODI, and T20 formats from New Zealand Cricket and Cricket Ireland.

You can choose to subscribe to ESPN+ monthly or annually.

Bottom Line

When it comes to streaming live cricket games online, there aren't many options in the U.S. If you're a fan of local games in India, then Hotstar is the best choice. They have exclusive rights to broadcast the IPL, which is great for those who follow the Indian cricket league.

If you're looking for international games, however, then consider Willow TV. You can subscribe directly to Willow TV or through their affiliates (such as Sling TV). Willow TV has the rights to most of the international cricket boards, which means you'll have access to most of the international game broadcasts.

ESPN+ is a relatively new service, and they do feature some cricket games, but they're not a dedicated cricket channel like Willow TV or Hotstar. It can be a good choice if you're also interested in other games, such as rugby or golf. However, if you're purely interested in cricket, it's better to look at Willow TV or Hotstar instead.

Best Ways to Watch Cricket Online in USA 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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You don't need to fly a lot to earn a TON of Alaska miles. Read on for 10+ smart ways to earn Alaska Airlines miles fast.

As the current top-ranked airline in the US, Alaska Airlines does a lot of things right.

Customers rave about Alaska Airlines' consistent on-time arrivals, customer satisfaction, and of course, a great frequent flyer loyalty program.

The Mileage Plan allows you to travel with Alaska Airlines and their global partners to over 900 destinations worldwide.

Read on for all the ways to earn Alaskan Airline miles fast.

Before you take any of these steps, you need to join the loyalty program. Simply click this link to sign up for free. It takes 30 seconds. You will need your frequent flyer number to enroll in the various partner programs.

Co-Branded Alaskan Airline Credit Card

Even if you're not planning on traveling anytime soon, getting the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card is one of the easiest ways to fast-track your way to reward flights.

Online Shopping

This is the easiest way to earn Alaska Airline miles without flying.

Like most major airlines, Alaska Airlines offers the Mileage Plan Shopping program. Sign up for free with your Mileage Plan account number. Then use the portal to search and buy items from over 800 popular stores. You'll earn bonus miles for every dollar spent.

In order to get your bonus miles, the purchase must be completed within the same browsing session - that means no clicking out to other websites. An easy way to find the best deals is by going to all offers and sorting by "highest earn rate." Popular stores like Macy's, Walmart, Walgreens, and Staples tend to offer 2 miles per dollar spent.

It's a win-win for those who already regularly shop online. Find the full list of partner stores here.

Tip: Alaska Airlines makes using their online shopping portal easier by providing a handy button (extension available on the Google Chrome internet browser) that alerts you whenever you are on a partner website. You can also see and activate current mileage offers on the spot without having to use the internal portal.
Eat Out with Mileage Plan Dining

Alaska Mileage Plan Dining program lets you earn points when you dine out at eligible restaurants. Join for free and register your credit cards. Then eat at a participating restaurant and pay with the card to receive bonus miles. There are over 10,000 restaurants to choose from.

You get 1,000 bonus miles right off the bat. Depending on your membership level, it's possible to earn 1-5 points per dollar spent. Here's what you can get:

  • Basic member: 1 mile per $2 spent. No email provided.
  • Online member: 3 miles per $1 spent. Sign up to receive emails from the Mileage Plan Dining Program.
  • VIP member: 5 miles per $1 spent. Sign up to receive emails AND complete 11 qualified transactions in one calendar year.

Remember, the credit card you link is the card that you will use to pay your restaurant bills. So if you have a travel rewards card, add it so you can get double the miles!

Fly with Alaska Airlines

You earn 1 mile per actual mile flown (no matter what cabin class) when you fly with Alaska Airlines. There are some terms and conditions. Flights must be in the range of eligible flight numbers and must be marketed and operated by Alaska Airlines.

Eligible flight numbers:

  • 1-999 (operated by Alaska Airlines)
  • 2000-2999 (operated by Horizon Air)
  • 3124-3499 (operated by SkyWest)
  • 4800-4999 (operated by PenAir)

You can also earn bonus miles for premium cabins and class of service. They're as follows:

  • Economy H, Q, L, V, K, G, T, or R: no bonus
  • Economy M or B: 25% bonus
  • Economy Y or S: 50% bonus
  • First Class F or P: 75% bonus
Fly with Partner Airlines

For routes not serviced by Alaska Airlines (mostly international), it's best to look into their partner airlines. Each airline has different stipulations and mileage earn rates, so be sure to check here in advance of booking.

On certain airlines like American Airlines, you can earn up to 100% of base miles in premium cabins and even certain Economy classes. Furthermore, you can earn up to an additional 100% class of service bonus depending on the airline and cabin.

Wondering if eligible partner airline flights count toward Alaska Airlines elite status? Yes, several of them do!

Alaska's partner airlines are:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • PenAir
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska
  • Singapore Airlines
Book an Alaska Airlines Vacation Package

For those who are a big fan of 1-click vacation bookings, you need to know about Alaska Airlines vacation packages.

Save big by booking a flight + hotel package together and earn up to 1,500 bonus miles per booking. This is in addition to miles earned on flights flown on Alaska Airlines.

It's smart to check what Alaska Airlines vacation packages have to offer while you are in the price-comparison stage of planning your trip. You might be able to obtain special perks, including discounts and amenities that can't be found elsewhere.

Popular destinations include Las Vegas, Hawaii, Disneyland, Disney World, Mexico and Costa Rica.

Note: You are usually credited within 6-8 weeks upon completion of travel.
Stay at Partner Hotels

You can also earn miles for qualifying stays at participating hotels chains, including:

  • Best Western: Earn 250 miles per stay on qualifying rates. To earn miles with this partner, you must be a Best Western Rewards® member prior to your stay.

  • Choice Hotels: Earn 250 total miles per eligible stay at any participating chains. You must provide your Mileage Plan number at check-in or set Mileage Plan as your preferred learning method in your Choice Privileges account.

  • Coast Hotels: Earn 500 miles per qualifying stay.

  • InterContinental Hotels Group: Earn 1-2 miles per $1 paid on eligible charges at participating chains. Earn 500 miles per qualifying stay at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts outside of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean and at all InterContinental Alliance Resorts worldwide.

  • La Quinta Hotels: Earn 250 Mileage Plan miles for every stay at La Quinta Inns & Suites and LQ Hotel locations®.

  • Marriott Rewards: Earn 1-2 miles per $1 paid on eligible charges (or room rate only) at participating chains.

  • Rocketmiles: Earn 500 to 10,000 miles per night on every reservation.

  • Starwood Preferred Guest: Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all eligible charges. Starpoints may also be converted to Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1 ratio. You must be a Starwood Preferred Guest member (free to join) to earn miles for your stays. Earn 1,000 bonus miles when you stay two nights or more at participating hotels.

  • Westmark Hotels: Earn 2 miles for every dollar used toward accommodations at a qualified rate and one mile for every dollar spent on food and beverage purchases (excluding alcohol). You must be a Westmark Guest rewards member to earn miles for your stays.

All you have to do is provide your Mileage Plan number when making reservations and checking in at the hotel.

Car Rentals

Renting with these car rental partners will also earn you miles:

  • Alamo: Earn 150 miles per day through December 31, 2018.

  • Avis: Earn 50 miles per day, or 500 miles per rental, on rentals of 5 days or more. Earn 500 more bonus miles on rentals of 3 days or more through September 30, 2018.

  • Budget: Earn 50 miles per day. You get 30% bonus miles on rentals 3 days or more through September 30, 2018.

  • Dollar: Earn 50 miles per day. Earn 150 miles per day on rentals 3 days or more through December 31, 2018.

  • Hertz: Earn 50 miles per day on rentals up to 4 days. Earn 500 miles per rental on rentals of 5 days or more.

  • National: Earn 150 miles per day through December 31, 2018.

  • Thrifty: Earn 150 miles per day on rentals of 3 days or more through December 31, 2018.
Book a Cruise

CruisesOnly is the preferred cruise provider of Alaska Airlines. You can earn Mileage Plan miles depending on the price of your cruise.

  • If total cruise price is less than $3,000: earn 1,000 miles

  • If total cruise price is more than $3,000: earn 2,500 miles

Not every sailing and cruise line is eligible for earning miles. So make sure the cruise you select states in the details that you will earn Mileage Plan Miles.

Other Ways to Earn Alaska Airline Miles

Besides the Mileage Plan Dining and Shopping programs, Alaska Airlines is a direct partner with the following:

  • 1-800-Flowers: Earn 20 miles per dollar when you use the most-up-to-date promo code.

  • Diners Club International: Transfer Diners Club Rewards points into Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1 ratio.

  • The Opinion Terminal: Earn at least 400 miles when you join for free and complete your first survey. You'll also earn miles for every survey you complete. This is a great way to earn miles at absolutely no cost!

  • Teleflora: Earn 20 miles per dollar when you use the most-up-to-date promo code.

  • Vinesse Wine Clubs: Earn 2,250 miles upon initial sign-up, as well as 5 miles per dollar spent on wine purchased through the program. Mention offer code ALASKA when ordering.

  • Carrs-Safeway: Earn 100 miles for every $300 spent at participating Carrs-Safeway locations. *ALASKA ONLY*

  • GCI: Enroll and earn one mile per dollar spent on a wide variety of eligible GCI cable TV, internet, cellular, and local and long-distance plans. *ALASKA ONLY*
Bottom Line

Whether you are booking a flight or hotel, or purchasing something through one of their affiliate shopping programs, it is important to meticulously track and follow-up with any pending bonus miles that you are waiting to show up on your Mileage Plan account. You don't want to let any rewards slip through the cracks, especially if using the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card. Put an honest effort into knowing the Mileage Plan inside out and making strategic, eligible purchases, and you will be rewarded in more ways than one!

How to Earn Alaska Miles Fast appeared first on CreditDonkey

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Dining programs are a great way to earn even more credit card points. Delta's SkyMiles Dining Program will help you earn miles while you eat out. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

Even if you don't travel often, there are still plenty of ways to earn Delta miles. One of the best ways to do that is through Delta's SkyMiles Dining program.

The majority of households in the US eat out once a week, if not more. Since you'll probably find yourself in a restaurant at least once this week, make sure you're earning SkyMiles for it.

To be clear, this doesn't mean you start eating out more than usual. Remember the travel hacking mantra: "I do not need to spend more to travel more." Use the Delta SkyMiles Dining Program to get rewards for the meals you're already buying out.

Read on for our breakdown of the program.

How to Sign Up for the SkyMiles Dining Program

Signing up for the SkyMiles Dining program is simple.

  1. Get a SkyMiles account. You do need a Delta SkyMiles account first. This is where your miles are stored. If you don't have one yet, you can easily sign up for free on Delta's website.

  2. Sign up for the dining program. Go to the SkyMiles Dining website. From there, you can click the "Sign Up" button. Sign up using your Delta SkyMiles information.

  3. Link a credit card. Once you've done that, you will need to link a credit card to your account. Don't worry, you won't be charged for anything—signing up is 100% free. We will talk about which credit cards to consider using a bit later on.

  4. Pay with the credit card. When you pay for a meal with that linked credit card, you'll earn bonus miles based on the total cost of your meal. The miles are automatically credited to your SkyMiles account. That's it. No scanning receipts. No registering the visits in an app.

If you're aiming for Medallion status with Delta, you should know that miles earned through the dining program don't qualify.

Most of the time, Delta offers a sign-up bonus as an incentive for participating in the program. An example might be earning 3,000 bonus points by eating three $30 meals at participating restaurants in the first 30 days of opening your account. These bonuses make your miles earning even sweeter.

How Many SkyMiles Do You Earn

The number of points you earn with each visit depends on your membership level. Delta breaks it down into three tiers:

  • Member: earn 1 mile per 2 dollars spent.
  • Online Member: earn 3 miles per dollar spent. To reach this level, you just need to opt into SkyMiles Dining emails.
  • VIP Member: earn 5 miles per dollar spent. To reach this level, you need to opt into emails and complete 11 qualified restaurant visits in a calendar year.

It's a no-brainer to opt into emails and earn a lot more miles than just a basic member.

In order to receive your miles, no matter your membership level, just pay with the registered card. The miles should appear in your SkyMiles Dining account within 5 days. They will show up in your Delta account 6-8 weeks after your visit.

Most airline dining programs operate the exact same way. You may therefore ask yourself, "Why don't I register the same card with all of them? Then when I pay for a meal, I'll earn points towards all airlines." Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. Most dining programs are run by Rewards Network. Rewards Network will know if you try to register the same card with multiple programs, and prohibits you from double dipping. If you are signing up for multiple programs, know that you'll need to use separate cards for each of them.


How to Choose Which Credit Card to Link

You could use whatever card you have in your wallet for SkyMiles Dining. A better idea, however, would be to register a card that earns you extra miles on top of what you will get from dining out.

Consider using a Delta credit card to earn miles.

Better yet, link a card that rewards you with bonus points for dining purchases.

How to Find Participating Restaurants

Finding restaurants is also an easy process. Simply type in your zip code or city at the top of the SkyMiles Dining screen and it will generate a list of delicious options. There are over 10,000 participating restaurants and bars across the US.

Narrow down your search by specifying a search radius, type of food, or price range. A quick search of Fort Lauderdale, FL, brought up over 280 restaurants.

You may run into restaurants that have blackout dates. Meals eaten on those days will not earn any points with the SkyMiles Dining program. Be sure to check the restaurant availability on the right side of the search screen or on the individual restaurant page.

Bottom Line

In our opinion, airline dining programs are a great way to earn miles while discovering new restaurants.

The Delta SkyMiles Dining program is very generous. With the 5X miles multiplier, you can start to rack up SkyMiles quickly. Add in a credit card that also rewards dining and you'll be able to double-dip on the rewards. Now the only thing left to do is figure out how to use all those miles. Bon appétit!

Delta SkyMiles Dining: How to Earn More Miles appeared first on CreditDonkey

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Redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points for the most value. This guide highlights some of the best award redemption opportunities with Rapid Rewards points.

Southwest is the most popular budget airline in the US, and for good reason. Free checked bags, no change fees, and regularly gifted drink coupons make for happy customers.

Their Rapid Rewards program is equally generous. Use our tips to figure out the best ways to use those Rapid Rewards points.

What to Know About Rapid Reward Points

  • Southwest splits their fares into three categories:
    • Wanna Get Away: The cheapest option. Flights are refundable, but only as credit to be used on a future flight. If you booked with points, your points will be refunded back into your account. You can also change your flights.
    • Anytime: Middle of the road option. Flights are refundable and changeable.
    • Business Select: This option costs the most. Southwest doesn't have first class seating, but you do get some extra perks like priority boarding and free drinks.

    When we talk about flight deals in this article, we'll be looking at Wanna Get Away fares.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards is cost-based. That means the number of points you need for an awards flight depends on the price of the flight. This is very different from region-based awards systems like American or United.

  • There isn't a set dollar-to-point conversion. On average, a Southwest point is worth 1.5 - 1.8 cents. Anything lower is not a great deal, so do the math to make sure your flight falls within this range.

  • There are no black-out dates or seat restrictions on award flights. As long as the flight has a seat available, you can book it with points.

  • You always want to book award travel early, but this is especially important with Southwest.

    The earlier you book, the lower prices you'll find, which means fewer points required. Generally, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly.

  • Southwest doesn't impose fuel surcharges. For domestic flights, you only have to pay a $5.60 Security Fee each way. However, taxes and fees for international flights vary.
How to Book Southwest Flights with Points

First, you need to be a Rapid Rewards member. It's free to join.

Head to Southwest's website to get started. Input your departure and destination cities and your travel dates. Let's search for a one-way award flight from Los Angeles to Portland in October.

Make sure to select "Points" instead of "Dollars."

You'll see all the flight options on that date and the points needed. Non-stop flights with the lowest points will always show up first.

If your dates are flexible, choose the "Low Fare Calendar" option in the bottom left-hand corner. This will give you a calendar of the lowest prices each day during your travel month.

From this screen you can click on the dates that look best to you. Next you'll choose the time of your flight and checkout using your Rapid Rewards information.

All you will pay is the $5.60 Security Fee for one-way domestic flights.

Redeem Rapid Rewards Points for Best Value

Because Southwest has a cost-based program, it's tricky to determine which deals are good and which aren't. We have gathered all of the tips and tricks that you can use to make sure you're getting the biggest bang for your Southwest buck.

Because Southwest is cost-based, the point amounts are subject to change. But you can use our examples to get an overall idea.

Keep reading for how to get the best value for your Rapid Rewards points.

Fly with the Companion Pass

The Companion Pass is the gold standard of travel perks. Once you earn 110,000 points (or take 100 one-way flights in a year), Southwest will gift you a Companion Pass.

This pass lets you name one partner to fly with you for free on unlimited Southwest flights for the rest of the year PLUS the entire next year. This basically doubles the value of all of your Rapid Rewards points.

The fastest way to get a jump-start on earning points for the Companion Pass is through credit card sign-up bonuses. You can also shop and dine with Southwest partners to earn qualifying points. We explain many ways to earn Rapid Reward points here.

To add your companion, do NOT book their flight when you book yours.

Instead, book only your flight. And then go to the "My Trips" tab in your Southwest account. Click on your upcoming flight and you'll see "Add Companion" under your flight details. You'll need to pay the taxes and fees for their flight, but that's all.

Your companion does have to have the exact same flight itinerary. You cannot, for example, fly from Boston to Orlando and have your partner fly from Dallas to Orlando. You must fly together on the same flight.

Book and Rebook a Flight

One of Southwest's greatest features is that their award flights are refundable. If you booked with points, they will refund you points if the cost of your flight goes down.

Let's say you find a flight from Orlando to San Francisco for 14,000 points, but then Southwest has a sale and the cost goes down to 11,000 points. You can change the flight online or by calling Southwest and they will reimburse you those 3,000 points.

Flight Sales

Southwest is also known for some killer sales. Look on their "Special Offers" page to see what their current deals are. Once you're on the page, just look for your departure city. Underneath the departure city, you'll find all of your destination options along with prices.

The page won't show you the cost of flights in points. When you see a low fare in dollars, click the "Go" button. You can then choose to see the price in points.

You can just go off of the prices in the sale. With a little research, however, you can really understand if the deals are worth it or not. If you have flights that you take often, like flying to see your family, check the site every couple weeks to see how much those flights go for on average. That will give you a good idea of how much those flights generally cost. With that information, you can see if the Southwest sale is really a good deal.

Any longer-distance flights for less than 3,500 points are a steal.

Read the fine print on the "Special Offers" page. Some sales are only available on certain days of the week. Or they have other restrictions.


Fly between US Cities for as Low as 4,000 Points

Southwest can get you some great deals on flights throughout the US. Even without Special Offers sales, you can find flights between US cities for as low as 4,000 points. To make sure you're getting a good deal, do a little math. Again, Southwest points should be worth 1.5 - 1.8 cents per point.

If you find a flight from Dallas to Denver for $107 that costs 6,095 points, each of those points is worth 1.8 cents ($107 ÷ 6,095). That makes it a good deal in terms of points.

Trips to Mexico for under 10,000 Points

Southwest can help you find some sun and beaches by sending you to Mexico for less than 10,000 points each way. This is especially possible if you go in the off-season from September - December. With four different destinations in Mexico, you can really explore the country.

In this example, you can go from Chicago to Cancun in September for just 5,850 points each way. In comparison, United's region-based award chart requires 17,500 points to fly to Mexico.

Southwest does charge taxes and fees for international flights. Charges vary depending on the flight and destination. In this example, it would cost you a total of 11,700 points and $80 in fees.
Trips to the Bahamas and Belize for under 15,000 Points

If you are looking to go somewhere even further out than Mexico, look to the Bahamas or Belize. Great beaches, relaxed living, and delicious food make these places worth visiting. They're even more worth visiting when it only costs you 15,000 points (or less) to get there with Southwest.

Positioning Flights

In simple terms, this is a "pre-flight" in order to get yourself to the main starting point.

Let's say you find an amazing deal to fly to Europe from New York City on a different airline. But you don't live near NYC. In this case, you can use a cheap Southwest flight as a "positioning flight." You can use some Rapid Rewards points to grab a quick flight from a smaller airport to a major international airport (for example, from Columbus, Ohio, to JFK airport).

You can then use points from other airlines, or from credit card travel programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards, to catch your flight to Europe.

Don't be afraid of positioning flights. They allow you to take advantage of a ton of great deals, especially if your home airport isn't a major hub. Just make sure to plan it all out.

Make sure to give yourself at least a 3 - 4 hour buffer in between your flights. Because your itineraries won't be connected, the airlines have no responsibility to make sure you catch your connecting flight. This means delays on your positioning flight could mean you miss your second flight. Give yourself even more time if you have checked luggage. If you want to play it really safe, arrive the night before and book a cheap hotel (using points, if you would like).

Using points for hotels
You can also redeem your Rapid Reward points for hotel stays and car rentals. However, you will not get the same redemption value. The value is poor, at just about 0.2 - 1 cent per point. It's not the best way to use your points, unless you happen to have more points than what you know to do with.

You do need to have a Southwest co-branded credit card in order to book hotels and car rentals with points. Redeem in the "Redeem More Rewards" section on the Southwest website.

Bottom Line

Southwest has lots of opportunities to use all of those hard-earned points. With the tips we gave above, you'll be flying Southwest all the time, with only a few dollars out of pocket.

Best Ways to Redeem Southwest Points appeared first on CreditDonkey

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The best robo-advisor offers low management fees, low minimum investment requirements, and daily account monitoring. Read this list of top robo advisors before you invest.

The increase in popularity of robo-advisors has brought numerous players to the field. These automated advisories all offer automated management of your investment portfolio. The similarities end there, though. You'll find robo-advisors that only operate online and those that provide access to human advisors as well. Certain robo-advisors only handle one type of account while others offer taxable and retirement accounts.

If you prefer a hands-off approach to your investments, keep reading to find the top robo-advisors to consider.

What to Look for in a Robo-Advisor

  • Low management fees: Many robo-advisors charge annual fees. Some charge a monthly fee, while others charge nothing.

    You'll want to choose the robo-advisor with the lowest management fee while still providing the features you'll use.

  • Low minimum investment requirement: Each robo-advisor sets their own minimum investment requirements. Know how much you have to invest and choose your robo-advisor accordingly.

  • Automatic investment rebalancing: The key to robo-advisors is their ability to monitor your account daily, automatically rebalancing your account when it gets off track from your intended goals. Not all robo-advisors offer this service, but we feel it's the key to success with this service.

Watch out for hidden fees: Just because a robo-advisor has low management fees doesn't mean that's all you will pay.

Make sure you find out what type of investments they trade. Are they mostly commission-free ETFs? If so, you are in good shape. If they trade mutual funds or stocks, though, you'll pay front-end loads, transaction fees, and commissions. These could all take away from your profits.

Best Robo-Advisors

With the above considerations in mind, here are our favorite robo-advisors.

Best Robo-Advisor for New Investors

Our Pick: Betterment
Betterment does not have a minimum required investment. New investors can get started with Betterment with little money. They typically invest your money in ETFs from one of 12 asset classes, and they offer both taxable and retirement accounts.

Betterment's strategy is very goal-based. After answering their initial questions, Betterment puts together goals for you that cover money for emergencies, retirement, and general investing.

You don't have to accept the goals that Betterment sets for you, though, since you can also customize your own. Either way, Betterment creates a recommended asset allocation to help you achieve your goals.

As a bonus, Betterment offers daily tax loss harvesting, which helps to minimize your tax liability from capital gains, and they also automatically rebalance your account if it gets off course.

Betterment vs Wealthfront : Wealthfront and Betterment are the household names when it comes to robo-advisors. They both have similar features and fees. If you are looking for differences, though, Betterment purchases fractional shares whereas Wealthfront only purchases whole shares. This can cause some cash drag as you wait to have enough cash to purchase whole shares. Wealthfront, on the other hand, offers 529 college savings plans whereas Betterment does not.
Best Robo-Advisors for Small Investments

Our Pick: SigFig
It doesn't get much better than free. If you are going to invest less than $10,000, you can have it managed for you for no annual fee. This is a great way for new investors to use every penny available to them to increase their profits.

We also like SigFig because they give free access to a human advisor (15 minutes at a time) and they offer automatic rebalancing. If you decide to invest with SigFig, though, you should know that your funds are not invested directly with SigFig. Instead, they serve as the "middleman" for your accounts with TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, or Charles Schwab. If you don't have an existing account at any of these brokers, SigFig will open an account for you at TD Ameritrade.

Keep in mind: Even though they don't charge a fee for assets under $10,000, you do need $2,000 to get started with them.
Best Robo-Advisor for High Net Worth

Our Pick: Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
We like Vanguard Personal Advisor Services for investors with a high net worth because they offer a combination of a robo-advisor and personal advisor all in one service. The fact that you can get personal advice on your portfolio for only 0.3% of your managed assets per year is what some investors would consider a steal. If you have a high net worth, this could be a valuable service for you.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services offers all the same benefits of any other robo-advisor, including automatic rebalancing, 24/7 access to your portfolio online, and help with setting and achieving your financial goals.

Vanguard Personal Advisor Services does not offer daily tax loss harvesting. This can be costly when you are talking about large investments. They are conscious of your tax liabilities and help to allocate your assets appropriately between taxable and non-taxable accounts, but daily tax loss harvesting could be something sorely missed.
Best Robo-Advisor for IRAs

Our pick: Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
It sounds too good to be true, but Charles Schwab's robo-advisor service is offered free of charge in exchange for a minimum investment of $5,000. This doesn't mean you won't pay any fees, though, as you'll still be responsible for the expense ratios on your investments, which can range from 0.06% to 0.20% of the assets.

Schwab Intelligent Portfolios offers traditional, Roth, and Rollover IRA accounts. They also offer SEP IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs for the self-employed.

A feature we like about Schwab's Intelligent Portfolios is their "Goal Tracker." This feature helps you see your progress toward your large, retirement goals. When you are just starting out with $5,000, your retirement goals can seem unachievable, but with the Goal Tracker, you can see your daily progress, and it tells you if you are on target, at risk, or off target. The tracker then gives you advice on how to correct the issues to get you back on target, if necessary.
Best Robo-Advisor for College Students

Our Pick: Acorns
College students who are conscientious about the need to start saving for retirement can benefit from the Acorns app. With just your spare change, you can start investing with as little as $5.

You link as many credit cards as you want to Acorns and they keep track of your purchases, rounding them up to the nearest dollar. Once your spare change hits $5, they withdraw the funds from your checking account and invest the "change" for you. You won't get rich quick, but it's a great way to get a head start on saving for retirement.

Best Robo-Advisor for Management of 401(k)s

Our Pick: Blooom
Most robo-advisors don't manage 401(k) accounts; instead, they focus on IRAs and taxable investment accounts. Blooom fills that void, though, as they only manage 401(k) accounts. If you are a new investor or an investor without time to manage your 401(k), Blooom offers a valuable service. They do charge $10 a month, though, which can be rather costly depending on how much you have invested.

Best Robo-Advisor for Retirees

Our Pick: Personal Capital
Personal Capital offers a hybrid of a robo-advisor with the benefit of human advisors for investors with at least $200,000 invested. Retirees often benefit from this service by speaking with their advisor or team of advisors to effectively manage their withdrawals while staying on track with their personal goals.

Personal Capital's services do come at a cost, though. They charge 0.89% of your assets under management per year, which is much steeper than your standard robo-advisor. If you are a retiree, though, you don't need the robo-advisors that focus on retirement goals. Instead, you need a consultant who will help you avoid taking out too much during retirement so you can stay on track.

Why Use a Robo-Advisor

The purpose of a robo-advisor is to help you automate your investments. You eliminate the stress of managing your asset allocation on a daily basis. It also helps eliminate the emotional aspect of investing. This can help you avoid making rash decisions that have poor financial consequences.

Perhaps one of the largest benefits of the robo-advisor, however, is the low fees. The average robo-advisor charges 0.25% of your assets under management per year. In exchange for the fee, you get automatic monitoring and often rebalancing of your account based on your desired goals. The software's algorithms determine the right asset allocation and help you keep your investments on track.

In other words, the hard work is done for you. Once you answer the questions provided by the robo-advisor regarding your net worth, age, and goals, their algorithm figures out the desired asset allocation to help you reach your goals.

Is a Robo-Advisor Right for You?

If thinking about investing scares you, but you can't afford the hefty fees of a personal financial advisor, a robo-advisor could provide the perfect compromise. It takes the stress of managing your investments off your hands and makes them automatic.

Whether a robo-advisor is right for you depends on many factors, including how much you have to invest, how much you are willing to pay, and if you are capable of handling your investments on your own.

Common Questions

  • What are expense ratios?
    In addition to the management fee the robo-advisor charges, you may pay fees for mutual funds, ETFs, and index funds. These costs eat right into your profits, but they are not paid to the robo-advisor. Instead, they are paid directly to the investments.

  • What is the difference between taxable and retirement accounts?
    When you save for retirement, you save your funds with tax advantages. Oftentimes you don't pay the taxes until you withdraw the funds. Taxable accounts, on the other hand, do not have tax benefits. You are not restricted to any contribution limits or distribution guidelines.

  • What are ETFs?
    Most robo-advisors invest in low-cost ETFs. These are investments that track specific indexes based on their industry. They work similar to mutual funds, but ETFs trade like stocks, though, enabling you to purchase as little or as many ETFs shares as you want.

  • What is tax loss harvesting?
    Some robo-advisors use tax loss harvesting techniques to help minimize your tax liability. In other words, they sell investments that have lost value. The loss helps to offset the capital gains you make on profitable investments. In the end, you have a lower tax liability and higher profits.

  • Why would robo-advisors offer human advice too?
    From the name, robo-advisor, you'd think the computer would do all of the work. Some robo-advisors, though, offer a hybrid service, which can mean interaction with a human advisor. Many brokerages reserve this service for high net worth investors, but not all do.
Bottom Line

The right robo-advisor for you depends on many factors, including how much you have to invest, how much you want to spend, and the type of account(s) you want to open.

Robo-advisors might not be the best option for the hands-on investor, but a hybrid investor that offers both automated and human advisor services could bring you the best of both worlds. Make sure you know everything a specific company offers and requires before making your decision.

Best Robo Advisor: Top Comparison List 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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Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) can erase a portion of your student loan debt. But it can be hard to navigate and disastrous if you make a mistake. Read on to avoid common issues.

Overview

Public Service Loan Forgiveness was created to encourage college graduates to go into the public sector. In exchange for their talents, the Department of Education would erase their remaining loans after ten years.

There are many nightmare stories about PSLF. People who made monthly loan payments for years only to find out that their employer doesn't qualify for the program. Or they are using the wrong repayment plan. Or they have the wrong type of loans.

There are clearly a lot of ways to go wrong in the PSLF process.

That doesn't mean you should bypass it, however.

If you have all of the information and you get your ducks in a row, you can say goodbye to tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans.

What is PSLF?

Back in 2007, Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. This major piece of legislation brought some big changes to the student loan world, including income-based repayment plans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

PSLF rewards people who work in the public sector by forgiving any leftover federal student loan debt after ten years of payments. That means that the first round of recipients had their loans forgiven just last year. Income-based repayment plans help people qualify for the PSLF program.

Say you have $150,000 in student loans. After working in the public sector and making payments on your loans for ten years, you pay off $50,000. The remaining $100,000 is forgiven and you walk away debt free. We'll go into all of the details below.

How do I qualify for PSLF?

  • Make sure you have qualifying loans:
    PSLF is only applicable to Federal Direct loans. How do you know if you have Direct loans? Log into your My Federal Student Aid account. If your loans have "Direct" in the title, then they qualify.

    Loans made after 2010 probably fall into the Direct loans program (you should still double-check), but be careful with loans made before then. It's quite possible that loans taken out before 2010 fall under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, and therefore don't qualify. Other loans that might trip you up could be Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, or Parent PLUS Loans. Unless they have "Direct" before the name, none of these loans are eligible for PSLF.

    Luckily, you can take those ineligible loans and turn them into eligible loans by consolidating them into a Direct Consolidation loan. It's important to note that you will be starting your 120 payments after you consolidate. Any payments you made pre-consolidation don't count towards PSLF. If you have a Direct Parent PLUS Loan, you can participate in PSLF. In that case, the parent must be working for a qualifying employer, not the student who received the loan.

    Other loans that don't qualify and can't be consolidated include private loans and Health Professions loans.

    Consolidation is where you take all of your separate loans and combine them into one big loan, hopefully with a lower interest rate.

  • Make sure you're working for a qualifying employer:
    In order to receive Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you have to be doing public service. That means that you are working full-time (at least 30 hours per week) for a qualifying employer.

    Tip: You can work multiple part-time jobs to qualify. As long as all of your employers qualify for PSLF and your total hours worked in a week are more than 30, you're good. Just submit an Employment Certification Form for each employer.

    Qualifying employers include government positions, non-profit organizations that have 501(c)(3) status, and those working full-time for AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. If you're not sure if where you're working is a 501(c)(3) organization, check the IRS database.

    Political organizations, labor unions, or religious organizations won't qualify for PSLF. Nonprofits that don't have 501(c)(3) status are shaky, but they are a possibility. The organization must be focused on an approved area and you can't be doing directly political or religious work. For example, if you work in the cafeteria of a Christian school, you might qualify. If you're the school priest, you're out of luck.

    You should submit the Employment Certification Form to the Department of Education right away. Once it's processed, they'll let you know if your job doesn't count.

    Can I work out of the country and still qualify for PSLF? Yes, but your employer must be based in the U.S. and qualify under the PSLF guidelines.

  • Qualifying payment plan:
    The program requires that you sign up for an Income-Driven Repayment plan in order to reap the benefits of PSLF. These are the plans that determine your monthly payments based on—you guessed it—your current income.

    There is a reason for this. If you have an income-driven plan, it stretches your payments out for 20 years. The standard repayment plan has you paying off your loans in 10 years. Therefore, with the standard plan, you wouldn't have any loans left to forgive once you've made the 120 (or ten years of) payments required by PSLF. Under PSLF, after ten years, the rest will be forgiven.

    Check out your options and determine what's best for you:

    • PAYE (Pay as You Earn)
      • This is a solid, can't-go-wrong choice. It takes 10% of your monthly income. If you start earning enough that your payments on the PAYE plan would exceed what you paid with the standard plan, it will use the lowest number.
      • Here is an example: under the standard plan, you were paying $500 per month. You switched to the PAYE plan and your payments went down to $300. However, you get a great new job and your income increases significantly, so your payments go up to $550 per month. Lucky for you, the Department of Education will say "nope, that's not right" and only ask you to pay the $500 you were paying on the standard plan.
      • This is the best option if you are married, since two incomes could make your monthly payment increase significantly. With the PAYE plan, your payments are capped.

    • REPAYE (Revised Pay as You Earn)
      • Also a solid option. The only difference between this and PAYE is that there is no cap on the amount you have to pay. If you start making a lot of money, your payments will increase accordingly. If your payments get too big, it won't automatically revert to the amount you would have paid under a standard plan, like PAYE does.

    • IBR (Income-Based Repayment)
      • Depending on when you borrowed, you might not be eligible for PAYE (if you didn't receive a direct loan after 2011, for example). In that case you have a choice between REPAYE and IBR.
      • You'll pay 10% of your discretionary income if you're a new borrower after January 1st, 2014 with IBR.
      • You'll pay 15% of discretionary income if your loans date back to before 2014.
      • Like the PAYE plan, your payments are capped. They won't let your payments exceed what you would have paid every month on the standard plan.

    • ICR (Income-Contingent Repayment)
      • This is your only income-driven option as a Parent PLUS borrower.
      • This is a bad option for virtually everyone else. It takes 20% of your income (with payments stretched over 25 years) or what you would pay over 12 years on the standard plan. It's not worth your time for PSLF. Just don't.
Qualifying payments

Now that you've switched your payment plan to an income-driven option, you need to make 120 qualifying payments. But what does that mean? We'll explain.

A qualifying payment is a student loan payment that covers the monthly income-driven amount. 120 of these will add up to 10 years of payments, if you have no interruptions.

No, you can't speed up the process by making multiple payments in one month. You also don't help the process by paying more than the monthly amount. In fact, if you're pursuing PSLF, you should be making the minimum payments—that way, you can have the maximum amount forgiven after 10 years. Other payments that don't work include payments made during your grace period, while your loan is deferred or in forbearance, or payments made while you're still in school.

These payments can be interrupted. For example, if you work for the government for seven years, then work for a private company for two, you can go back to the government. After three more years of payments with a government job, you'll still have your loans forgiven.

If you go on maternity leave or otherwise need to use your three months of FMLA (Family Medical Leave) while working at a PSLF qualifying company, that doesn't interrupt your 120 payments. You just need to keep making monthly payments during that time.
How to apply/track your progress

You don't actually "apply" for PSLF until you have completed the 120 payments. However, you can make your life much easier by tracking your progress with the government.

The minute that you start working for a qualifying employer, send in the Employment Certification Form. If you change employers, submit this form as soon as you start your new job. If your loan servicer is already FedLoan, you can upload it directly on their website.

Send it in every year after that (or twice a year if you're an overachiever). Make sure you also keep a copy for yourself. When it comes to showing that you've been making payments while working for a qualified employer, these forms serve as your proof.

If there is something wrong with your employment (you aren't working for a qualified employer, you don't have the correct type of loans, or you aren't on the correct repayment plan), the Department of Education will let you know. This is also why it's helpful to do this immediately after you start working. You can then fix the problem and be on your way to loan forgiveness.

If you just discovered PSLF after you've been working in the public sector for a few years, you can still use the program. Send in the ECF immediately. Go back to any old employers and send in the ECF for them as well. The sooner you start the process, the easier things will be at the end.

The nightmare you want to avoid is trying to verify 10 years of employment at the same time. Or finding out that you haven't been making qualifying payments. If everything is tracked over time, the process moves much faster and you get to enjoy the student loan debt-free life sooner.

After your 120 payments, turn in that Application for Forgiveness. You must still be working for your qualifying employer when you submit this form. Then wait for a letter saying that your loans have been forgiven. Feel free to do a celebration dance when that letter comes in.

Extra things to know

  • Tax information
    Once you achieve that sweet, sweet loan forgiveness, you might be wondering how this affects taxes. You're in luck. All of that money from forgiven loans is untaxed.

    This is not to be overlooked. It's a huge tax benefit.

  • Public service vs Private jobs
    If you're currently figuring out whether to go into the public or private sector, PSLF should definitely factor into your decision. That does not mean that we recommend it in every situation, however. If public sector work doesn't call to you or if you stand to make significantly more money in the private sector, so much so that you can pay off your student loans comfortably in less than ten years, that's something to consider.

    PSLF will be a huge help if you have a significant amount of student loans and aren't about to pull in six figures. It is also a perfect option for those who really want to work in the public sector.

  • FedLoan
    Once you begin actively tracking your employment for PSLF, your loans are automatically transferred to FedLoan for loan servicing. There is no other option here. FedLoan is the only federal loan servicer authorized to process PSLF applicants.

PSLF in the News: PSLF has made the news a lot in the past couple of years. 2017 was the first year for eligible borrowers to be approved for forgiveness. It is estimated that of the 7,500 applicants, about 1,000 had loans forgiven. A group of lawyers working for the American Bar Association were denied loan forgiveness after being told their work qualified. The White House and Department of Education laid out a plan to eliminate the program. On top of all that, there is an act sitting in the House of Representatives, called the PROSPER Act, that is also aimed at eliminating the program.

However, that shouldn't deter you from pursuing the program. There is a powerful force of people opposed to the repeal of the program. Additionally, those who are currently under the program will most likely be grandfathered in.

If you're worried, set aside a small percentage of your income every month as a "just in case" fund. You have that should anything happen with PSLF. If nothing changes, you can treat yourself to a weekend away with the extra savings. Win, win.

Bottom Line

Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a huge opportunity that could take thousands of dollars of debt off of your shoulders.

If you're working in the public sector, or thinking about it, PSLF should definitely be on your radar. Use all of our information above to make sure that you are dotting all of your i's and crossing your t's, and you'll be saying goodbye to a ton of debt (after those 120 payments).

Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Is PSLF Real? appeared first on CreditDonkey

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Is there a formula to maximize returns and minimize risk? That's the idea behind Modern Portfolio Theory, the strategy of many robo-advisors today.

Is MPT worth it? Does it really work? We discover the ins and outs of this theory below.

Dr. Harry Markowitz introduced Modern Portfolio Theory in 1952 in his doctoral thesis. He discovered the flaw in current strategies that did not account for risk and just focused on return. Markowitz then went on to write "Portfolio Selection," which sparked the interest in diversifying a portfolio.

The main premise behind his paper was to prove that a diversified portfolio is better than a portfolio chosen strictly on the investments with the highest return.

What Is Modern Portfolio Theory?

Modern Portfolio Theory focuses on the effect investments have on an entire portfolio, rather than as a single investment. In other words, choosing different types of investments will diversify your risk. Markowitz wanted to prove that looking at investments as a whole portfolio rather than individual investments will provide greater returns in the end.

Here's an example:

If you invest in three stocks individually, not focusing on how they affect your entire portfolio, you are at the mercy of the stock market alone. If stocks in general drop, you could face serious risk without anything to offset that risk.

If, instead, you diversify without putting all of your eggs in one basket, you may offset your risk. Let's say that instead of investing in just stocks, you put some of your money in bonds too. The bonds may offset the riskiness of the stocks. If stock prices drop, the bond prices may increase, helping to decrease the risk of a complete loss. This is a simplified example, but it shows you how choosing a variety of investments from different asset classes can offset your risk.

It's not a guaranteed protection against loss. Unfortunately, there's no foolproof way to ensure that you won't lose when you invest. No one can predict the future. Diversifying does help lower your risk, but it doesn't mean you won't experience loss no matter which investments you choose.

In short, Modern Portfolio theory maximizes your returns by minimizing your risk. The idea isn't to lower your expected return. Instead, it's to diversify your risk so that you can achieve your desired returns.

Understanding Risk and Return

Risk and return are the two main components of Modern Portfolio Theory. While they both may be obvious terms, they are worth mentioning.

Return: The profit you make on an investment is the return. It could be capital gains from stocks, dividends paid from companies you have ownership in, appreciation of an investment, or bond payments upon maturity.

Risk: This is the chance you take that a particular investment will not provide the desired return. In general, stocks have a higher risk level than bonds, but every investment carries some type of risk.

You can determine the return and risk based on the asset's history, but don't rely on it 100%. You should also take into consideration the market's condition and any predictions for the market's future.

Modern Portfolio Theory Assumptions

Modern Portfolio Theory assumes that investors see risk and return as directly related. You need to take a higher risk in order to receive higher returns. It is the hope of the theory, though, that diversifying will reduce the risk without reducing your returns. In other words, an investor should choose the portfolio with the lower risk without sacrificing the return.

Other assumptions MPT has include:

  • Investors are in the market to maximize returns
  • Investors don't take unnecessary risk
  • All investors understand the expected returns
  • Commissions are not included in the decision
  • All investors have the same information at their disposal
The Importance of Diversification

When you diversify your portfolio, you choose investments that aren't correlated. It could be as different as investing in stocks and bonds or as simple as choosing ETFs in different economic sectors.

If you choose investments within the same sector, you run the risk of them both reacting negatively to the same bad economic factors. Choosing investments in different industries and/or investment types diversifies that risk. In other words, the risk of these investments being affected by the same economic factors is very slim.

Criticism of Modern Portfolio Theory

No theory is without its faults or naysayers, and Modern Portfolio Theory is no exception. Some say that technical analysis offers better insight. Another common criticism is that the buy and hold philosophy that the Modern Portfolio Theory subscribes to isn't the best way to maximize returns.

Many investors believe that managing their own portfolio and actively trading is the best way to maximize returns. If you don't have the time or the knowledge to actively manage your portfolio though, the Modern Portfolio Theory may serve you well.

Bottom Line

So is the Modern Portfolio Theory something you should consider? If you invest with a robo-advisor, it will likely be the investment strategy used. Experts believe it's the best strategy to maximize returns while minimizing risk.

If you want a hands-off approach to investing that helps minimize risk, using a robo-advisor that utilizes Modern Portfolio Theory may be beneficial. As with any investment strategy, though, you should look at all of your options and choose the one that will help you meet your ultimate goal.

Modern Portfolio Theory appeared first on CreditDonkey

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Studying abroad? Learn more about how student insurance can protect your health and your wallet while you focus on the experience.

Why do you need student insurance?

Studying abroad is an adventure. But like any adventure, there are risks.

You may be studying in a place with excellent medical standards. You may even be studying in a place with free medical care, even for foreign students. Or you might not be so lucky.

No matter your destination, there are always uncertainties.

Your domestic insurance probably doesn't cover you

Before leaving on any trip, it's a good idea to check on the coverage offered by your normal health insurance. Don't be surprised if you find you have no coverage—most insurance policies don't cover travelers outside the US.

You'll need insurance to enroll in school

Nearly all student exchange programs require you have medical coverage to participate. This is also true for most foreign universities.

As part of the enrollment process, you'll likely be required to show proof you have adequate insurance.

Most schools insist on a certain level of medical, evacuation, and travel coverage.

What should you look for in a student policy?

  • Medical coverage
    Your student insurance policy should include medical coverage. While you're away at school, you'll be exposed to different surroundings, different activities, and different foods. Though seeing a doctor may be the last thing on your mind, it's just not safe to travel without medical coverage.

  • Evacuation coverage
    Emergency evacuation coverage helps transport you to a medical facility if you're seriously sick or injured. The cost of a medical evacuation can be very high. Your insurance should not only cover the cost of the transportation, but also help with the arrangements.

  • Trip coverage
    Be sure your insurance offers coverage for your travel to and from your destination country. This includes cancelled or delayed flights and lost baggage.

  • Concierge services
    Be sure your student policy provides a concierge service. This may also be called travel assistance. With this service, you can call up your insurance for help with things like finding a doctor, translation services, or tracking down lost baggage.

  • Passport/travel documents help
    This is often part of the concierge service. It's scary to be in a foreign country without your passport. Be sure your student insurance will be there to help if you lose any of your important documents.
Coverage for one-off trips

Some travel policies only cover you for a specific destination. Your student insurance should include coverage for one-off trips you might take while you're abroad. Be sure your plan covers for school-related trips as well as leisure travel.

Coverage offered by your school

Your school or exchange program may offer you the opportunity to purchase insurance. Be careful here.

Sometimes these are great plans, coordinated through a major travel insurer. Other times, they're overpriced policies with little coverage.

Take the time to read and understand what you're being offered. If the school's policy does not provide the benefits we've outlined above, you might consider purchasing a separate policy.

Bottom line

Traveling away from home without adequate insurance is risky. It's best to consider your situation and get a policy that fits your needs. Then you can focus on your experience abroad instead of worrying about medical bills.

Student Travel Insurance appeared first on CreditDonkey

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Traveling during hurricane season can be risky. Read on to learn how travel insurance can protect your investment.

Travel insurance is important for any trip. But it's especially important if you're traveling during storm season or to a hurricane-prone area. So, first things first - check your policy documents. Make sure a hurricane (or natural disaster) is a covered reason for trip benefits. If it's not, you might need to check out a different policy.

When your policy includes hurricane benefits, here's how it can help recoup your money if your plans are derailed.

There's a Hurricane Before Your Trip

If your destination is in the path of a hurricane, there are a few things you need to check. First, contact your resort or cruise line. Is the resort closing or has the cruise line canceled? If so, you may get a refund from them without involving your insurance. If you're not offered a refund, it's time to involve your insurance.

Here's where your policy's trip cancellation benefit comes in. Your plan should cover pre-paid expenses if you have to cancel. Check your policy for the specifics. Some plans allow you to cancel as late as two days before your departure. Others require you to cancel further in advance.

Hurricane During Your Trip

You're on your trip and a hurricane is heading toward your location. What next? Check in with your resort or cruise line. Has an evacuation notice been issued? Is the cruise returning to port?

If you need to cut your trip short, you can file a trip interruption claim. This will help recover some of the pre-paid expenses you'd otherwise lose.

How much does travel insurance cost? Plan on paying 4%-10% of your total trip cost for a good policy.
Important to Remember

  • Be sure you purchase your travel policy around the time you book your trip. Your plan must be active before the hurricane is named, otherwise you won't have coverage. Don't wait until you hear about the hurricane to start looking for insurance.

  • You must insure the full, pre-paid amount of your trip to qualify for trip cancellation benefits.

  • Generally, a hurricane warning or an evacuation order must be issued. This is what triggers the insurance benefits. If a hurricane might be headed toward your destination but there's no official word, you probably won't be covered if you cancel.

  • As with any insurance claim, be sure you document your cancellation as much as possible.
Look Out for These Exclusions

  • We've already mentioned buying your policy in advance of the hurricane. This is important. Your claim will most certainly be denied if you buy insurance after the hurricane is named.

  • Pay attention to travel warnings. If an official warning is in place and you travel anyway, related claims could be denied.

Does Travel Insurance Cover Hurricanes? appeared first on CreditDonkey

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How much will you have to pay for travel insurance? Read on to find out the costs and what affects the price.

A standard travel insurance policy costs between 4% and 10% of your pre-paid, non-refundable trip cost.

What's included in pre-paid, non-refundable costs?

  • Any payments you made for a cruise, tour, or hotel. This includes deposits.
  • Rent or deposits on property where you're staying.
  • Concert tickets, theme park passes, or event tickets.
  • Pre-paid transportation, like travel to an airport or port of call.
  • Airline tickets that are not fully refundable.

This does not include arrangements that can be changed or rescheduled.

For example: You can't go on your trip and will miss your hotel reservation. Instead of canceling the booking, the hotel rebooks you on a later date. Since you're still getting the room, you're not actually losing money. This doesn't qualify as a non-refundable cost.

It's important you understand the cancellation process each time you book something in advance. Be sure you can truly cancel, so you can claim insurance benefits if needed.

What else is not included?

  • Items you purchase during your trip.
  • Activities you pay for after your departure.
  • Travel documents you obtain after your departure.
  • Lodging you pay for after your departure.
  • Any other expenses you did not pay for in advance of your trip.
How is cost calculated?

  • Trip Coverage
    Trip cancellation coverage focuses on your trip and travel. Limited medical coverage is also included.

    In most cases, the cost for trip plans is based on the following:

    • Total trip cost (pre-paid, non-refundable expenses)
    • Age of travelers
    • Length of trip
    • Add-on or optional coverage

  • Travel Medical Coverage
    Travel medical plans focus more on medical benefits. Most plans include trip coverage as well, but the benefits are not as robust.

    The cost for travel medical plans is based on the specifics of your trip. This may include the following:

    • Age of travelers
    • Length of trip
    • Coverage options
    • Destination
What else affects the price?

  • Deductibles
    Choosing a high deductible can lower your overall insurance bill. But you'll also pay more out of pocket if you have any claims.

  • Medical maximums
    Increasing your medical coverage on a travel plan will increase your premium.

  • Evacuation maximums
    High evacuation benefits usually mean a higher insurance cost. Consider your situation carefully before you lower your evacuation limits. Evacuations are expensive, and a low limit can be risky.

  • Cancel for any reason coverage
    You may find a plan that includes cancel for any reason benefits as part of its standard coverage. But probably not. There's an additional cost for this benefit on most plans.

  • Hazardous sports coverage
    If you plan to take part in any dangerous or risky sports, you'll pay extra for hazardous sports coverage. It covers activities like scuba diving and mountain climbing.

  • Other add-on benefits
    Travel insurance plans offer a variety of other add-on options. You can tailor your plan to fit your specific needs, but you should expect to pay more for the added coverage. Add-on's may include:

    • Concierge support
    • Identity theft protection
    • Non-medical evacuation coverage
    • Professional or semi-professional sports coverage
    • Rental car coverage
Finding the best price

A standard travel insurance policy will cost you around 4% - 10% of your trip cost.

If you want something cheaper, look for an economy plan. If you'd rather have more coverage, go for a premium plan.

There are hundreds of travel insurance companies fighting for your business. You may find yourself visiting website after website to check prices and coverage.

Instead, find a good online comparison tool that does the work for you. Plug in your details and compare coverage and price across several different policies.

How Much Does Travel Insurance Cost? appeared first on CreditDonkey

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