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HSBC is one of the largest international banks, and it has a growing presence within the United States. They are mainly an online bank - and they offer some of the best yields you'll find on savings products. Plus, they also typically offer great bonuses for signing up for their accounts.

They are still a full-service bank, with a range of products. However, unlike other banks, they do lack branches in the U.S., and they don't have a huge ATM network.

Despite these set backs, should you consider HSBC? Here's what you need to know in our HSBC Online Banking Review. Also, see how they compare to the other best online banks

Quick Summary

  • Full service online bank with a tilt towards international customers
  • HSBC Direct Savings has one of the top yielding APY
  • Top notch bonus offers for different accounts

HSBC Online Bank Details

Product Name

HSBC Direct Savings

Min Deposit 

$1

APY

2.30% APY

Monthly Fees

$0

Promotions

Up to $750 with Premier Checking

Who Is HSBC?

HSBC is an international bank with branches throughout the world. It is one of the largest banking and financial services organizations with a network covering 66 countries and territories. HSBC was founded in Hong Kong on March 6, 1865.

HSBC is derived from The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, which is the founding member.

What Do They Offer?

HSBC is a full-service bank offering personal and business financial products. Its products include checking, savings, mortgages, loans, credit cards, CDs, insurance, and retirement. In this article, we’ll look at personal deposit products.

Except for its Direct Savings account, HSBC products aren’t anything to write home about. However, if you are looking for a full-service, international bank, HSBC is a top choice.

Checking Accounts

There are four checking accounts to choose from on hsbc.com:

  • Premier: There is a $75,000 minimum or recurring direct deposits of $5,000/month are required. Otherwise, the account incurs a $50/month fee. There are unlimited out-of-network ATM reimbursements in the U.S.
  • Advance: There is a $5,000 minimum with direct deposit or a requirement of $10,000 in other accounts. Otherwise, the account incurs a $25/month fee. Four out-of-network ATM reimbursements are available in the U.S., except for New York.
  • Choice Checking: There is no minimum with direct deposit or a requirement of $1,500 in other accounts. Otherwise, the account incurs a $15/month fee.
  • Basic Banking: There is no minimum. The account will incur $3/month fee regardless of balance. The first eight checks are free, then after that they cost $0.35/check.
Savings Accounts

Listed on the hsbc.com website are three savings accounts. Their APYs range from 0.01% to 0.15%. Those rates aren’t enough to incentivize anyone to sign up, given the rates at over 2.00% APY at other banks.

However, deposits into savings accounts count toward the overall balance for waiving maintenance fees on checking products.

CDs

HSBC also offers three CDs:

  • 6 months
  • 12 months 
  • 24 months 

$1,000 is required to open a CD and a $500 balance must be maintained to avoid a $5 maintenance fee.

As you can see, HSBC can be heavy on the fees.

HSBC Direct

What you don’t see on the above site are two additional products. One is a $0/month fee checking account and the other is a 2.30% APY savings account. You’ll have to go to a completely different site to see both of them. There is no link from the hsbc.com website.

Why HSBC chooses to hide these products is a mystery. Below are the details on both products, which you can find at https://www.hsbcdirect.com.

Direct Checking: There is no monthly fee and there are no fees when using HSBC ATMs within the U.S. It requires $1 to open. One drawback of this account is that you can’t write paper checks.

Direct Savings: This has a 2.30% APY. It requires $1 to open.

HSBC Direct products are online-only.

HSBC does have excellent customer service. You can reach them 24/7 by live chat.

There is a mobile app available as well, which allows for mobile check deposits. HSBC has some branches on the east coast and west coast of the U.S. What this means for most Americans is that accessing a local branch or in-network ATM will be impractical.

Are There Any Fees?

There are maintenance fees on non-Direct financial products. You can avoid these fees by going with the online-only HSBC Direct Checking or Savings products.

How Do I Open an Account?

To open a regular HSBC checking, savings, or CD product, visit https://www.us.hsbc.com and select the product you want to open. To open an HSBC Direct Checking or Savings account, visit https://www.hsbcdirect.com.

To open an account, you must be 18 years old, have a Social Security number, and valid U.S. ID. You’ll need to have a U.S. residential address for the past three years as well.

Is My Money Safe?

Yes — for U.S. deposit account holders, funds are backed by the FDIC. HSBC also uses bank-grade encryption on its website.

Is It Worth It?

If you are looking for a full-service bank within the U.S., HSBC is probably not going to be your top choice. The lack of branches and in-network ATMs across the country is a big disadvantage compared to other major U.S. banks. The high balance requirements to avoid monthly fees are also not competitive.

Someone who may like HSBC is a person looking for a high-yield savings account and is OK with an online-only bank. The website hsbcdirect.com has a 2.30% APY savings account — a competitive yield. Or, if you need an international, full-service bank, HSBC has a strong standing throughout the world.

The post HSBC Online Banking Review: International Strength appeared first on The College Investor.

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The College Investor by Robert Farrington, Robert Farringto.. - 1d ago

Even if you're a poor collge student, never think you’re too poor to have dorm room renters insurance.

If you’ve ever been in a situation where your stuff was stolen or destroyed by something you had no control over, then you know how distressing it is. One of the best ways to ease that distress is to get renters insurance.

Contrary to what you might think, renters insurance is an investment more than it is an expense.

Thankfully, it is not wildly expensive and you can get it for as low as $5 per month.

The benefits you gain as a result of having renters insurance outweighs the cost by at least 1,000 times.

Your laptop, cameras, clothing, and even the cost to live at a hotel if your dorm room becomes physically damaged, can all be covered under your renters insurance plan.

So if you’re planning to live in a dorm room in the coming academic year, I highly recommend that you invest in a renters insurance policy to protect you and your personal belongings.

So what is the best dorm room renters insurance? In this post, we’ll discuss that.

Before you go off buying renters insurance all on your own, however, make sure to check with your car insurance company or your parents first.

Check with Your Current Car Insurance Company First

Most car insurance companies offer renters insurance for dorm rooms as well.

Before you look at any other plan, call your car insurance company and ask them about renters insurance. Chances are that you will get it for an even further reduced rate (they will bundle it so the overall cost is lower) or you might even get it for free.

Ask Your Parents

If your parents have home or renters insurance themselves, that insurance might cover your belongings in a dorm room as well.

It is important to note, however, that coverage for items in your dorm room may be limited. It may not even cover anything at all if you live in off-campus housing.

In that case, you will need to get your own.

Ask Your School for Advice

Some universities have relationships with insurance companies where students receive special discounts for dorm room renters insurance.

Talk to someone who works in your residential life and housing office to find out more about this.

Now let’s talk about the best dorm room renters insurance you can invest in starting today.

Best Dorm Room Renters Insurance
Lemonade

Lemonade is first on the list because of how easy it is to get renters insurance through them.

You will enjoy features like:

  • An app that allows you to apply for insurance and make claims
  • Fast and easy response times
  • The ability to input exactly what you own and Lemonade’s AI-based system will craft a personalized insurance plan based on that
  • Renters insurance that starts for as low as $5
  • The ability to donate to a charity of your choice if you have unclaimed money on your insurance plan
Allstate Renters Insurance

Allstate’s renters insurance is best in value for those people looking to bundle this with their car insurance.

Rates start as low as $4 per month and they have an online application that is super easy to use.

Don’t want to use their online application? Allstate has agents in cities across the country who will help you get set up with an insurance plan quickly.

USAA Renters Insurance

If one of you or your parents currently are or have been part of the military, you might be able to get in on USAA’s great renters insurance rates.

The nice thing about USAA’s plan is that it has expanded coverage that most other companies don’t carry.

The coverage under USAA’s insurance includes:

  • Property protection
  • Flood protection (this is usually an extra cost on other companies’ policies)
  • Earthquake coverage
  • Coverage for the replacement costs of items
  • The ability to bring your renters insurance when you move

Of course, there are other renters insurance programs out there for you to check out — but when it comes to the best value for your dorm room, these plans take the cake.

A Few Things to Note About Dorm Room Renters Insurance

It's important to make sure you understand what your renters insurance covers.

  • If you have a roommate for your dorm room, your insurance policy does not cover their stuff. Thus, you can encourage them to get their own so they are protected.
  • Keep a record of your valuables and have proof for them. This could include receipts, photos, and even deeds (for higher-end belongings) of those items. Having these will make it easier if you ever have to make a claim on your renters insurance.
  • If your dorm room has a pest problem, you need to let the university authorities know so that it is solved ASAP. Renters insurance policies don’t cover pest destruction.
  • Accidental damage of your items is also not covered by renters insurance. If you accidentally spilled your coffee on your computer, renters insurance will not cover that.
  • Always apply common sense in your dorm room so you don’t become liable for destroying someone else’s property.

Like I’ve said before, renters insurance is an investment and not an expense. The money you will save if anything ever happens to the stuff in your dorm room is well worth the $5 to $10 per month you’ll pay.

So make sure you don’t skip out on it.

The post The Best Dorm Room Renters Insurance for Students appeared first on The College Investor.

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The College Investor by Robert Farrington, Robert Farringto.. - 3d ago

Renters insurance is an investment. Not an expense.

When you rent, renters insurance is an inexpensive way to protect your belongings.

I say “inexpensive” because it usually does not cost much, and while some plans may not cover everything in case of a disaster, having renters insurance is 10 times better than having none at all.

If you’re planning on renting an apartment while you attend college this fall, renters insurance is a must-have.

What does renters insurance cover? By the end of this article, you will know the answer to that question.

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?
Property Protection

Every company is going to call their renters insurance program something different.

Additionally, companies will have different add-ons that may or may not be relevant to you.

However, what you’re looking for with renters insurance, regardless of company, is whether your property is protected.

So, make sure your personal effects are protected in case they are destroyed and the dollar amount is up to the amount needed for the company to cover your destroyed belongings.

A typical renters insurance policy will cover:

  • Fire damage
  • Smoke damage
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Lightning damage
  • Windstorm/hurricanes
  • Water discharge such as when water sprinklers go off

Under theft, there are policies that will cover your stolen item even if it does not happen in your rented apartment. Make sure to ask about this as well.

Personal Liability

Let’s say a friend of yours visits your apartment and accidentally falls down while they are there. If they later decide to sue you for damages, renters insurance can cover that. This is called a personal liability.

Other personal liabilities include:

  • Dog bites: There are over 18,000 dog-bite claims in the U.S. each year and each claim can cost up to $35,000.
  • Swimming pool injuries.
  • Intoxicated guests: If you serve alcohol in your rented place and a guest hurts themselves while drunk, this is a personal liability as well.
  • Falling trees.
  • Injured workers: They are also covered under renters insurance. If there is a repair person working on your rented property and they get hurt, your renters insurance would cover that.

A falling tree cannot be prevented. But most of these liabilities can. So apply common sense, especially when you have guests over.

Accidents That You Cause

If you accidentally left a candle lit and that causes a fire in your rented apartment or house, renters insurance may cover that as well.

Make sure to clarify this with your renters insurance before signing on.

Additional Living Expense Coverage

If for some reason you have to evacuate your rented space and go live at a hotel, your renters insurance may cover those costs as well.

What If You Have a Roommate?

If you have a roommate, your renters insurance policy does not cover their belongings. And if a disaster happens, they will not receive anything.

Therefore, I highly recommend that you encourage your roommate to get their own renters insurance.

Thankfully, it is inexpensive enough to afford. And if they are already paying for car insurance, they might be able to get it through their insurance company for an even reduced rate.

What Does Renters Insurance Not Cover?
Pests

As annoying as pests are, renters insurance does not cover the damage they cause. This also means your renters insurance will not cover the cost of an exterminator. So, if there are pests in your apartment, talk to your landlord so they can take precautions against them.

The Building

Renters insurance covers your belongings. It does not cover the building that was holding your items. And so again, if you have a leaking roof, it will be in your best interest to talk to your landlord about fixing it.

Your Roommate

As I mentioned before, your renters insurance will not cover your roommate’s belongings. Encourage them to get their own renters insurance.

Undocumented Items

Any items that are not documented as yours will also not be covered by renters insurance.

What does this mean? It means you should keep receipts of all your expensive personal effects. This will help you prove how much those items are worth. In addition, you can take pictures of all the items in your apartment so that you can give them to the insurance company when a disaster strikes.

Keeping a record of your belongings — especially expensive ones — will make your claims go way easier!

Car

If someone steals stuff from your car, those items will be covered by renters insurance, but damage to the car will not.

If You Live in a Place That Regularly Has Natural Disasters

If you live in an area that is known to experience floods, hurricanes, or fires regularly, renters insurance in these areas will look differently.

In fact, in those instances, most renters insurance companies will not cover damages from these disasters. If this is the case for you, ask your insurance agent about add-ons — for example, flood insurance — so that you are covered in case of such an event.

The cost of replacing all of your things after they have been stolen or destroyed by fire is expensive.

You can get renters insurance for as little as $5 per month.

With the right protection, you will save yourself the heartache of replacing all your items after an unfortunate event.

The post What Does Renters Insurance Typically Cover for Renters? appeared first on The College Investor.

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If you’re starting to put your financial house in order, one of the first things to tackle is your credit card debt. Sometimes the best way to take care of the credit card debt is to consolidate it to a low-interest personal loan.

Personal loans may also be useful for helping you scale up your small business or to take care of major repairs that your home or car need.

Looking for a personal loan? Here are six companies that allow you to find the right loan product from your house. See how these companies compare to our full list of the best personal loan companies

1. Lightstream

Best For: Lowest Interest Rates and Fees

LightStream consistently offers some of the lowest interest rates for personal loans. Right now, rates on the loans range from 3.99% to 16.99% APR with terms ranging from 2 to 12 years.

To get LightStream’s best interest rate, you’ll need excellent credit and a strong income. Borrowers can take out up to $100,000 in an unsecured personal loan through LightStream.

The real reason we love LightStream is its complete lack of fees. You won’t pay an origination fee, an application fee, or even a late fee. Read our full review of LightStream here.

2. Marcus by Goldman Sachs

Best For: Flexibility in Borrowing

Marcus by Goldman Sachs also offers unsecured personal loans. Borrowers can take out up to $40,000 with interest rates ranging from 5.99% to 28.99%.

While interest rates on Marcus loans aren’t as good as those at LightStream, it offers some unique advantages. For example, if you make 12 consecutive on-time payments, you qualify for a 1-month loan deferral where you can skip your loan payment and tack it onto the end.

Interest continues to accrue during deferral, but it’s nice to know you can skip a payment if you face a huge expense one month.

Read our full review here.

3. SoFi

Best For: Borrower Perks

It’s rare that you think of perks when you think of borrowing. But when you take out a loan through SoFi, you become a SoFi member.

As a SoFi member, you’re entitled to a variety of perks including career coaching, local networking events, and even the option to pitch to become part of a class of entrepreneurs. Plus, SoFi’s loans have unemployment protection where borrowers can stop payments for a few months if they’ve lost their job.

Interest rates on SoFi’s personal loans range from 5.99% to 16.24%, and terms range from 2 to 7 years. You can borrow up to $100,000 through SoFi.

Read our full SoFi review.

4. LendingClub

Best For: Borrowing With A Co-Signer

Generally, we don’t recommend co-signing any type of loan with the possible exception of a mortgage. However, if you and your spouse share finances, you may qualify for a great interest rate if you co-sign a loan.

The best place to co-sign a loan may be LendingClub. The site’s online application makes it easy to apply for a loan together.

Rates on LendingClub’s loans range from 6.95% to 35.89% APR which includes the origination fee of 1% to 6%. You can borrow up to $40,000 from the site with repayment terms of 36 or 60 months. Learn more about LendingClub here.

5. Avant

Best For: Borrowers with fair credit

Avant offers loans with rates ranging from 9.95% to 35.99% APR (this includes the origination fee). While the interest rates are much higher than LightStream’s and other lenders’ rates, Avant isn’t targeting the same customers. Instead, Avant specializes in lending to people with fair credit.

If your credit score is in the mid- to upper-600s to low-700s, Avant may be the right lender for you. Read the full review here.

6. Upstart

Best For: Rebuilding credit

Upstart is a lender that focuses on people with borderline credit. Its average borrower has a credit score of 688 which qualifies as fair. However, plenty of borrowers will have worse credit scores than that. The lender’s rates range from 8.89% to 35.99%, but the average interest rate is around 20%.

Now, 20% is a high interest rate — even higher than some credit cards. That said, Upstart is a lender for people who might not otherwise qualify for a personal loan. Terms for Upstart’s loans range from three to five years, and you can borrow up to $50,000. Read the full review here.

Before You Borrow: A Checklist

Taking out a personal loan might be the right financial decision for your situation, but before you wander into debt, it’s important to consider whether it’s the right thing for you. This checklist can help you decide whether a personal loan should help you out of your financial situation, or if it will just make your problems worse.

  • Am I using the loan for a need or a want?
  • If I’m using the loan to pay off debt, have I addressed any overspending issues?
  • Do I have any options for earning extra money rather than taking on debt?
  • What is my plan to pay back the debt?
  • Do I qualify for credit card balance transfers or other low-interest debt?

Once you answer these questions, you may feel more confident about your decision to borrow or abstain from borrowing.

Full Comparison Chart Of Lenders

Not satisfied with this list of online loan companies? Check out this full chart of lenders to see if one might match your needs:

The post 6 Online Loan Companies That Allow You to Borrow from Home appeared first on The College Investor.

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Wismo is a budgeting app that has a social component to it - in that you can compare yourself to other people! Unlike other apps, Wismo also tries to score you - assigning you a personal score based on how efficient your spending is. 

This app provides an interesting twist on the basic idea of a budgeting app. And the fact that it has a free tier makes it a bit more compelling compared to other offerings (like CountAbout or Quicken). However, unless you need the novelty of a score, this app doesn't have the robustness of other free products like Personal Capital.

Read more and share your own thoughts in our Wismo review.

Quick Summary

  • Easy-to-use budgeting app the scores your spending
  • Use the app anonymously
  • Compare your spending and income to other people

Wismo Details

Product Name

Wismo

Pricing

Free to $9.99/mo

Platform

iOS or Android

Promotions

None

What Is Wismo?

Wismo is a simple, budgeting mobile app. It is owned by Nearby, Inc. Wismo doesn’t require any personal information or linking to bank and credit card accounts.

Interesting trivia: Wismo stands for What I Spent Money On.

What Do They Offer?

Wismo allows you to easily track your spending against income. Just snap a photo and add the amount of your purchase to track each expense.

You can choose to add more data such as the payee, category, and a note. You will be able to view your expenses by category, total monthly spending, recurring expenses, and daily expenses along with your income.

Two Plans

Wismo comes in two plans: one free and the other paid. The free plan has ads. The premium plan doesn’t have ads and you can use it in private mode. The premium plan costs $9.99/month or $4.99/month when billed annually.

PSI

Wismo uses a score to determine how efficient your spending is. The score is called the PSI or Personal Spending Index. PSI is calculated as [Spend/Income] x 100. Staying under 100 means you’re spending less than you make.

As an example, let’s say you spend $2,000 in a month while earning $2,100. Your PSI is 2,000/2,100 x 100 = 95. This means you spent 95% of your income. As long as you didn’t spend all of your income, you’ll have money to save.

In your monthly overview, you can see your savings. The monthly overview displays income after taxes and then subtracts recurring and daily spending to get savings. For example:

Income (after taxes): $6,750
− Recurring: $3,150
− Daily Spend: $2,920
= Savings: $680

The above has a PSI of 6,070/6,750 x 100 = 90.

A Social Environment

Besides not having to create a budget, another feature that sets Wismo apart from other budgeting apps is its social aspect. You can compare your spending to others just like you.

For example, age/sex, yearly salary, and occupation are available for comparison. This allows you to compare yourself against some very similar to you. The idea is that seeing how others are performing will motivate you to continue budgeting and saving.

Mobile App

Wismo is a mobile app only. It’s available for both iOS and Android. Currently, in the iTunes App Store, it has a 4.0 rating out of 5.0 ratings. The latest version of the app is 1.2 and lets you give people kudos in the Feed.

Are There Any Fees?

If you upgrade to the premium plan, it will cost $9.99/month or $4.99/month if paid annually. Accounts are charged through iTunes and will auto-renew unless the feature is turned off. Otherwise, you can remain on the free plan.

How Do I Open An Account?

Everything is done through the Wismo mobile app. You can get to the mobile app through the Wismo website. Click the download link. It will redirect you to the iTunes App Store or Google Play store depending on which device you have.

Once the app is installed, you can set up an account by providing a username and password. From there, you can begin using the app.

Wismo doesn’t require that you create budgets or link to banking and credit card accounts. All the app needs is for you to track what you spend each day.

Tracking what you spend each day has the added benefit of making you conscious of your spending. Knowing you have to plug that $4 latte into Wismo might make you think twice about the purchase.

Is My Money and Data Safe?

Yes. Wismo is different from other budgeting apps and financial software in that you don’t have to give it your information.

Once you download and install the app on your phone, just create a username and password to get started using the app. You don’t have to provide any other information or link your bank accounts. You can remain anonymous while using the app.

Wismo doesn’t give or sell your information. Nor do they share it on Facebook.

Additionally, Wismo uses 256-bit asymmetrical encryption.

Is It Worth It?

If you don’t mind the ads, the free version of Wismo is certainly worth a try. With so many people using more than one budgeting app at a time, trying Wismo while using your existing budgeting app shouldn’t be a problem.

If you ever want to get rid of the ads, you can upgrade for only $59.88/year if you pay annually. Paying annually saves you 50% over the monthly subscription rate of $9.99. With the premium version, the ads go away, and you’ll be able to use the app in private mode.

The post Wismo Review: Budgeting and Expense-Tracking App appeared first on The College Investor.

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Quick Summary
  • Web-based budgeting app
  • Affordable with a Basic plan at $9.99/year and Premium at $39.99/year
  • No ads
Who Is CountAbout?

CountAbout is an online budgeting app. It doesn’t require any desktop software installations to run. Of course, the mobile app must be installed to use it on your smartphone. CountAbout is based in Madison, WI.

What Do They Offer?

CountAbout is a web-based, affordable budgeting app. You don’t have to worry about ads. CountAbout is able to run the app without ads because there isn’t a free version, although you do get a free 15-day trial.

After creating an account and logging in, you’ll be presented with the transactions tab. You can set up accounts from here. Transactions can be edited and tags can be added or changed.

CountAbout will also analyze your spending and display it in an easy-to-understand graph. CountAbout lets you “memorize” transactions, which is another way of analyzing spending habits.

Import from Quicken or Mint.com

Like most people using budget software, if you are currently using Quicken or Mint.com, you can import transactions from both apps, allowing you to start from the same place in CountAbout. This also lets you continue using your current budgeting app while you try out CountAbout.

Sync All of Your Accounts

Entering every credit card, checking, retirement, and savings account transaction into your budgeting software can be extremely tedious and time-consuming. Throw in the occasional mismatched balance, and it can be enough to make you want to throw in the towel on budgeting.

Like most budgeting apps, CountAbout eliminates manual entry of transactions by letting you sync all of your accounts to CountAbout. To protect your data and logins, CountAbout uses a service called MX.

Reporting

CountAbout has some great reporting options. You can choose from several report templates, and each report is customizable, allowing you to choose date ranges, tags, and categories.

Plans

CountAbout offers two plans: Basic for $9.99/year and Premium for $39.99/year. The Premium plan lets you automatically download and import transactions from your financial institutions. You can also import from Quicken and Mint.

Feature Comparison

CountAbout has a great feature set for budgeting. Below are some of the features you’ll find in financial software that aren’t necessarily related to budgeting, but some people may expect to be in CountAbout anyway. These aren’t included:

Mobile App

CountAbout has a mobile app available for iOS and Android.

Customer Service

CountAbout’s customer service is initiated through the contact form on their website. There is no phone number you can call for customer support. This doesn’t mean there is no phone support. CountAbout tries to resolve any issues through email. If that doesn’t work, CountAbout switches to phone support so the issue can be resolved.

Are There Any Fees?

Yes — CountAbout fees are charged annually. The Basic plan is $9.99/year and the Premium plan is $39.99/year. There are also a couple of add-on services. Adding images to transactions costs another $10/year and for small businesses, invoicing is available for $60/year. Other than that, there are no fees.

There is a free 15-day trial, which starts you on the Premium plan. If you don’t cancel after 15 days, you’ll be charged the annual fee based on the plan you choose.

How Do I Open an Account?

You can open an account here and then click the green “Sign Up” button.

Is My Money Safe?

Yes — CountAbout follows many of the same security practices that banks follow. The website uses encryption. Your data is not stored at CountAbout. The only data about you that CountAbout has is your encrypted email address.

CountAbout also uses two-factor authentication, which makes it more difficult for someone to hack your account.

Because CountAbout uses a data aggregator called MX, CountAbout doesn’t see any of your financial information.

CountAbout doesn’t offer a free version of its service. Most free software has to support itself through ads, which means that users must give up some of their personal data. CountAbout claims it will never give or sell your data.

CountAbout gets around the privacy issues related to ads simply by not offering a free version of its software.

Is It Worth It?

For anyone who doesn’t want to spend a lot on budgeting software, CountAbout is a great option. It has many of the features needed for good budgeting at an affordable price.

If you’re on the fence, CountAbout is an affordable option to try out for a while and see if you like it. Keep in mind that it isn’t uncommon for people to use more than one financial or budgeting app. There’s nothing wrong with using Quicken and CountAbout together.

The post CountAbout Review: Budgeting at an Affordable Price appeared first on The College Investor.

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With the huge earthquake that struck California last week, you might be thinking to yourself, "should I get earthquake insurance?"

And you might be wondering the basics - how much does it costs, what does it cover, will it even help me in the case of an earthquake, and more. 

It's important to note that earthquake insurance is an additional product that you purchase beyond your basic homeowners or renters insurance policy. And depending on where you live (specifically what state you live in), your policy may vary.

Here's what you need to know about earthquake insurance, how it works, and where to buy it.

What Is Earthquake Insurance?

Earthquake insurance is a supplemental insurance policy to your homeowners (or renters, or condo) insurance that covers your home in the event of an earthquake. 

Earthquake insurance is different than homeowners insurance. If you have a mortgage on your home, you are required by your lender to maintain a specific level of homeowners insurance - but you're not required in any states to have earthquake insurance.

But, if there is an earthquake and your home (or belongings) suffer damage as a result, your homeowners policy won't cover it. As such, if you live in an area that's prone to earthquakes, you should consider an earthquake insurance policy.

What Does Earthquake Insurance Cover?

There are three main aspects that earthquake insurance covers - and they may not all apply unless you're a homeowner.

Earthquake insurances covers:

  • Your Dwelling - this is the same amount of coverage as your homeowners insurance policy
  • Your Personal Belongings - this is the value of your stuff (like furniture, etc)
  • Loss Of Use - this is the coverage that would pay for you to live elsewhere if your home isn't livable after an earthquake

If you're a renter, you would specifically look for a policy that covers your personal belongings and loss of use, as your landlord would be responsible for the dwelling.

Some policies also have extra coverages available - such as "code upgrade" coverage which would help pay for the costs of bringing your property up to modern day building codes if you had to rebuild. 

What Does It Not Cover?

It's just as important to understand what earthquake insurance does NOT cover when thinking about purchasing a policy.

First, most earthquake policies don't cover landscaping, pools, fences, masonry, or separate buildings (like sheds, etc.). You can sometimes buy additional coverages for these. 

Second, when it comes to personal property, some breakables are not covered (like china) unless you purchase additional "breakables" coverage. Other property, like vehicles that are garaged and damaged in an earthquake, are also not covered. Vehicles may be covered by a comprehensive auto insurance policy.

Finally, there are some other things that most earthquake insurance doesn't cover. This includes damage by fire or flooding after an earthquake. Earthquake insurance also doesn't cover damage to your land (such as erosion, sinkholes, etc).

Important Note: California law says that both homeowners and renters insurance must cover fire damage that is caused by or follows an earthquake. Mileage may vary in other states.

How Much Does Earthquake Insurance Cost?

Earthquake insurance varies greatly in cost based on a variety of factors - including coverage amounts for each type of coverage, the value of your dwelling, costs to rebuild, area, and deductibles.

On the low end, earthquake insurance premiums can be as low as $10 per month, and as high as $100 per month or more. It all depends on the coverage selected.

The California Earthquake Authority has a great cost calculator to help you figure out how much it would cost for you (if you live in CA). 

When Is It Worth It To Buy Earthquake Insurance?

It can be tough to know when it is worthwhile to buy earthquake insurance. Just like any insurance product, you're buying coverage in hopes you never need to use it.

When considering buying earthquake insurance, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Can you afford the premium?
  • Can you afford the deductible? (5% of your home value is usually the lowest deductible offered)
  • Can you afford to repair or rebuild yourself?

Once you've answered those basic questions, you need to also ask yourself if you have enough equity in your home to make it worthwhile. 

For example, if you only have 5% equity in your home, it might make more sense to walk away from your house than pay to rebuild. Yes, you would damage your credit in the short term, but rebuilding after a catastrophic event could be more costly than your credit score.

What States Offer It?

Every state offers some type of earthquake insurance policy - but the policies vary greatly and are determined by risk.

The states with the biggest risk of a large earthquake (magnitude 5.0 or higher) are:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

But, remember, every state has some type of earthquake risk.

Where To Buy It?

Even though earthquake insurance is offered by various state insurance agencies, you would still buy your earthquake insurance policy through the same company that offers your homeowners insurance. In fact, most states require your homeowners insurance company to remind you about the ability to purchase earthquake insurance.

The same is true if you're a renter - you would contact your renters insurance company and ask about getting an earthquake policy to go with your current insurance.

The post Earthquake Insurance | How It Works And Should You Get It? appeared first on The College Investor.

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If you're a landlord, you're always looking for handy ways to manage your properties. When you start with one, it's easy to keep track. But as you add doors to your portfolio of properties, managing it all can be a hassle. And paying a property management company eats away at your profits.

Enter Buildium - a property management software that helps you manage your properties easily, for a fair price.

Check out our full Buildium review and see what you think.

Quick Summary

  • All-in-one property management software
  • Streamlines many tasks, from onboarding tenants to rent collection
  • Relatively affordable once you move past 4 units
Who Is Buildium?

Buildium is a property management software service.

It was founded by Michael Monteiro and Dimitris Georgakopoulos in 2004. They acquired All Property Management in 2015, allowing Buildium to connect with local property owners. In June 2016, Buildium took in $65 million from investors, which was led by Sumeru Equity Partners.

Buildium is based in Boston, MA.

What Do They Offer?

Buildium is an all-in-one property management software service. They target four different types of property spaces: rentals, associations, student housing, and affordable housing.

Buildium’s feature set is divided into five main sections (features are listed below each section):

  • Accounting
    • Property accounting
    • Online payments
    • 1099 e-Filing
    • Company financials
    • Retail cash payments
  • Business Operations
    • Resident site
    • Document storage
    • Property inspections
    • Owner portal
    • Maintenance request tracking
    • Renters Insurance Plus
  • Leasing
    • Rental listings
    • Showings coordinator
    • Professional website
    • Rental applications
    • Tenant screening
    • eLease
  • Community Association Management
    • Violations tracking
    • Accounting and budgeting
    • Maintenance request tracking
    • Board communications
    • Online payments
    • Document management
  • Benefits
    • Onboarding
    • Ease of use
    • Cost savings calculator
    • Award-winning support
    • Data security

As you can see, Buildium provides a ton of functionality for property managers to do everything needed for successfully running a property. As part of the service, you also receive a professional website, which allows potential tenants to apply online. Existing tenants can pay their rent bill and file maintenance requests from a tenant portal.

The accounting feature set of Buildium is designed specifically for property management. It helps property managers ensure their property is running smoothly with detailed reports, 1099 e-Filings, conversion of work orders into bills, easy creation of rent-rolls, and more.

Tenant maintenance requests become more streamlined. Tenants no longer need to call or go down to the office to report maintenance issues. They can simply take a photo of the maintenance issue and upload it with a description to their tenant portal.

Inspections are time-consuming for property managers. There’s scheduling, creating an inspection report, and there are walk-throughs, just to name a few. It certainly isn’t a task many property managers look forward to.

What if you could standardize all of your inspections while cutting your inspection time in half?

Through a partnership with HappyCo, Buildium has done just that. HappyCo’s Happy Inspector app is a mobile app that allows you to do inspections on the go. Take it with you to inspections, snap a few photos, rate rooms, add some notes, finally get a signature, and you’re done.

The inspection app will calculate repair costs and send an inspection report to your tenant. Your staff will be able to see the inspection report in Buildium and can begin scheduling repair orders.

The inspection app syncs with Buildium and works even if there is no cell service. Once you get to a location that has service, the app will sync with Buildium.

There are a number of inspection templates to choose from as well. Note that the inspection feature is only available with the PRO plan.

Are There Any Fees?

Yes. There are two plans to choose from: CORE and PRO. The price changes depending on the number of units. The following are a few examples of the monthly fee based on units:

CORE
  • 1 to 20 units: $47
  • 21 to 40 units: $63
  • 41 to 50 units: $78

Unit prices continue going up to a maximum of 150 units at $239.

  • $0.50 per EFT payment
  • 2.75% per credit card transaction
  • $99 setup fee per business bank account
  • $5 per electronic lease document
  • $15 per Basic Tenant Screening
  • $99 setup + $40 per month for mobile inspections
PRO
  • 1 to 50 units: $156

51 units start at $209 and go up from there.

  • Free incoming EFTs
  • Free setup for first five business bank accounts
  • 30 free electronic lease documents
  • $18 per Premium Tenant Screening
  • Free mobile inspections

The CORE plan caps out at 150 units. From there, you’ll need to use the PRO plan. There are six additional services, which you can read more about on the pricing page.

  • Renters insurance: $14.50 per month per tenant
  • Remote check printing: $30 setup fee and $0.80 per check.
  • Showings Coordinator: starts at $30 per month (varies on unit tier)
  • 1099 e-Filing: $25 per batch + $3 per form
  • EZMail: $0.80 per single-page mailing + $0.15 per additional page
  • Retail Cash Payments: $99 setup fee per bank account
How Do I Open an Account?

You can open an account by starting with a free 15-day trial at https://www.buildium.com/free-trial/.

Is My Money Safe?

Yes — Buildium uses encryption across its website and mobile app. It stores data securely with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Is It Worth It?

For any property manager who is struggling to keep up with daily property management tasks, Buildium is a great choice. The more tasks you can digitize and automate, the more time you’ll free up while also reducing your stress.

Buildium moves property managers into a more fully digitized environment, bringing their tenants along with them. As Buildium takes in more information about your properties, its reports become more valuable, allowing you to make informed and knowledgeable decisions about your property management business.

The post Buildium Review: A Great Choice for Managing Properties! appeared first on The College Investor.

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Quick Summary
  • One credit per month equals one reward
  • Works directly from the Verizon website or mobile app
  • Free to enroll
What Is the Verizon Rewards Program?

The current Verizon rewards program for Verizon mobile phone users is the Verizon Up program. This article outlines what’s included with Verizon Up rewards.

What Do They Offer?

Some of you may be familiar with and have even used the Verizon My Rewards+ program, which ended on May 30, 2019, although the program started being phased out in the summer of 2017. Any points that weren’t used before May 30, 2019 were forfeited.

Running parallel with this program and still active is the Verizon Up program. It is the current Verizon rewards program for mobile users. Business and prepaid accounts aren’t eligible for Verizon Up.

The Verizon Up program got an update in May 2019. Customers previously needed to spend $300 before they could take advantage of rewards. That has now changed.

After enrolling in Verizon Up, you’ll receive one credit per month once your bill is paid. The credit can be used for one reward. Note that credits expire after 30 days. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it scenario.

Rewards fall into four main categories:

  • Rewards: Credit-based rewards
  • Bonus Rewards: Perks that don’t require using a credit
  • Local offers: Rewards specific to your geographic area
  • Super Tickets: Concerts, sporting events, special dining, and movie premiers

Rewards come and go so you may see different rewards depending on how often you check. To use a credit, you simply claim a reward. Note that you must be logged in as an Account Owner or Account Manager to claim any reward. Account Members do not have this privilege.

Once a reward has been claimed, there’s no going back. You have to use the reward that was claimed, even if you selected it by accident.

So what exactly do Verizon Up rewards look like? Common offers include gift cards that can vary from $3 to $5 for Amazon, Starbucks, iTunes/App Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, and other retailers. Besides gift cards, you might run across rewards such as 50% off one Uber ride or 50% off three weeks of Plated. A couple of the Bonus Rewards are a free Starbucks coffee on International Coffee Day (September 29) and a free Mrs. Fields cookie on Tax Day (April 15).

There are also $10 Device Dollars, a free three-month trial of HBO Now, and $60 of StickerPop coins. Keep in mind that these deals can and do change.

“Our customers wanted more rewards, more often, and we’re delivering,” said Angie Klein, Vice President, Consumer Marketing for Verizon, in an announcement. “Verizon Up has always been simple and free – [sic] and now it’s even simpler and brings customers even more value. It’s just a great way for us to say thank you to our customers.”

In the war of mobile phone service providers, Verizon Up seems aimed at programs such as T-Mobile Tuesdays. T-Mobile Tuesdays offers rewards every Tuesday, including free tacos from Taco Bell, free coffee from Dunkin', a free movie from Redbox, $4 movies at Regal Cinemas, a free stick-on wallet for your phone, and more.

For more information on Verizon Up, visit https://www.verizonwireless.com/rewards/verizon-up/.

Are There Any Fees?

No.

How Do I Enroll?

Log into your Verizon account through the website. In the upper left is a link to “Account.” Hover over it and a menu will appear. You’ll find the Verizon Up rewards program as a link in this menu. You can click it and enroll from there.

You can also enroll through the Verizon mobile app. Once you are in the app, tap the navigation in the upper left, then tap Verizon Up. Make sure you have the latest version of the app, as older versions may not have Verizon Up.

The Verizon Up section of the website or app will also show if you currently have a credit available.

Is My Money and Information Safe?

No money is involved with Verizon Up. It isn’t clear what happens to any information used with Verizon Up. However, you remain on the Verizon website or mobile app when using Verizon Up.

At the least, participating retailers probably receive some anonymized data about shopping behavior. Verizon doesn’t mention that your information will be sold or that you’ll receive more marketing emails as a result of signing up with Verizon Up.

Is It Worth It?

There doesn’t seem to be any drawback to using Verizon Up. If you like reward programs, Verizon Up is another box to check off. Based on $3 gift cards as a worst-case scenario, that’s about the amount of value you’re receiving each month — not quite enough for a Starbucks Tall latte, but then again, it’s certainly a nice discount.

You may also find rewards available for some of your favorite local restaurants, which can make the deals even better. Verizon Up does lower the rewards threshold from spending $300 to simply paying your bill, which makes it available to more people.

The post Verizon Up Rewards Program Review: Is It Worth It? appeared first on The College Investor.

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The Federal Perkins Loan Program is a subsidized student loan program.

The program stopped funding loans in 2018, but you may still have a Perkins Loan on the books.

In this guide we explain how to handle a Perkins Loan.

What Is a Perkins Loan?

Perkins Loans are federally subsidized loans issued by a school. Since the loans are subsidized, interest on the Perkins Loan doesn’t start to accrue until you’ve begun repayment. Once repayment starts, Perkins Loans have a fixed interest rate of 5% and a 10-year repayment schedule.

Unlike most Federal loans, Perkins Loans weren’t issued directly by the government. Instead, undergraduate and graduate schools could issue low-interest Perkins Loans to individuals who had extraordinary financial need. The maximum lifetime borrowing amount for Perkins Loans was $27,500 for undergrad loans and a total of $60,000 for graduate loans (including undergraduate loans).

The last disbursements for Perkins Loans was June 30th, 2018, so students haven’t taken out new Perkins Loans in over a year. However, the existing Perkins Loans still need to be repaid.

Perkins Loans have different options for loan discharge and forgiveness compared to other Federal loan programs. Because of that, when you make a plan to pay off your student loan debt, it’s important to understand whether you have a Perkins Loan. We explain the nuances of Perkins Loan forgiveness below.

How to Determine Whether You Have a Perkins Loan

Unlike other Federal loans, Perkins Loans were distributed directly by a school, so you may simply remember that you have a Perkins Loan.

Of course, that could have been several years ago when you weren’t paying attention to your finances. If that’s the case, you can contact a Federal student loan servicer to determine the type of loan you have. The Department of Education’s website also mentions that you can contact your school’s financial aid department to ask whether a loan was a Perkins Loan.

Options for Perkins Loan Forgiveness

Unlike most other Federal loans, Perkins Loans are not eligible for income-driven repayment plans unless they are consolidated with other Federal loans.

But don’t run to consolidate your Perkins Loan just yet. Perkins Loans have better forgiveness options than most other Federal student loans. Rather than having to wait 10 years for loan forgiveness (as in Public Service Loan Forgiveness), Perkins Loans are cancelled bit by bit over a 5-year period.

However, Perkins Loan forgiveness (called cancellation) is only for people with eligible professions.

The following professions qualify for five-year Perkins Loan forgiveness: elementary or secondary education teacher, Head Start preschool teacher, military service in a hostile fire zone (starting after August 30th, 2008), employee at a child or family services agency, faculty member at a tribal college or university, firefighter, law enforcement officer, school librarian, nurse or medical technician, professional provider of early intervention (disability) services, public defender, and speech pathologist.

For the professions listed above, the cancellation schedule is in this chart:

Year

Percentage of Loans Cancelled

Remaining Balance ($60,000 Loans)

Year 1

15%

$51,000

Year 2

15%

$42,000

Year 3

20%

$30,000

Year 4

20%

$18,000

Year 5

30%

$0

To learn about the loan forgiveness program, you must contact your school, or the school’s loan provider directly. The loan provider will give you more information about certifying your employment. Be sure to stay on top of certifying your employment, so you don’t miss out on loan cancellation along the way.

Professions with Unique Forgiveness Rules

This wouldn’t be a federal program if there weren’t a few exceptions. If you’re a member of AmeriCorps VISTA or a Peace Corps volunteer, you receive 15% forgiveness for two years. After that, the government forgives 20% of the original balance in years three and four. That means you’ll qualify for up to 70% forgiveness.

Preschool teachers who aren’t part of Head Start qualify for 15% forgiveness per year for five years followed by 10% forgiveness in years six and seven. The result is total loan forgiveness over seven years rather than five years.

Are There Other Ways to Discharge the Loans?

Perkins Loans are discharged if you die, your school closed down, or if you become totally disabled. In some cases, the loans may be discharged in bankruptcy.

Is the Forgiven Amount Taxable?

The amount of debt forgiven under the Perkins Loan forgiveness plan is not taxable!

What If I Don’t Qualify for Loan Forgiveness?

If you don’t qualify for Perkins Loan forgiveness, your loan is set to a 10-year repayment schedule. You cannot put a Perkins Loan onto an income-driven repayment plan unless you consolidate the loan.

So should you consolidate your Perkins Loan? If there’s any chance that you may work in a qualified profession, you should try to make the payments as agreed. That way, if you start a new profession, you may start cancelling your debt within the year.

But, if you cannot swing the payments, consolidate the loan so you can put the Perkins Loans on an income-driven repayment plan.

And, of course, you can always refinance a Perkins Loan to a private student loan. But that means you give up the advantages of a Federal student loan including the ability to cancel the loan.

The post Perkins Loans: The Ultimate Guide to Repayment and Loan Forgiveness appeared first on The College Investor.

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