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Plastic Fantastic: How to Prepare for Your First Credit Card

Plastic Fantastic: How to Prepare for Your First Credit Card

Your first credit card is a real responsibility. Here’s how to know you’re ready and the best practices for being a responsible user.

By the end of 2018, United States Americans owed over $800 billion in credit card debt.

And the same source tells us that 48% of those credit card users make only minimum payments on their credit cards. Those customers typically have rollover amounts each month.

To keep up with friends, almost 40% of millennials spend money they don’t have. And 3 in 10 cardholders don’t even use their rewards.

If you aren’t financially aware, credit cards can be a detriment to your future earnings. But if you use them correctly, they can improve your credit significantly and help set you up for success.

Before you get your first credit card, make sure that you’re ready. Keep reading to determine when you’re ready and to learn some essential tips for being a responsible user.

When Are You Ready for Your First Credit Card?

Getting a credit card is an essential step in almost every person’s life. But before you get one, you should understand the way they work.

Plus, it helps if you already have a bank account. Understanding how to deposit, save, spend, and budget money is an integral step in learning about finances.

When you use your debit card that’s attached to your checking account, you’ll get practice for when you use a credit card.

Do you already have self-discipline? Do you prioritize? If the answer is yes to either, you’re one step closer to being ready for your first credit card.

You should know about how much money you have in your checking account at any given time.

Make sure that you don’t overdraw your account and can manage any regular payments before spending money on anything else.

Do You Save up for Things?

Have you ever saved up for anything, big or small?

It’s good to be in the habit of saving up for things, especially when it comes to bigger purchases.

Don’t think of your credit card as a blank check. It’s a great idea to only buy things on your credit card that you could already pay for with funds from your checking account.

Using a credit card is an excellent way to build credit, especially if you pay it down regularly, and don’t max out your available credit.

Where Do You Get a Credit Card?

There are a few different types of financial institutions that offer credit cards.

1. Your Bank

Your bank is a great place to get your first credit card. While it used to be harder for someone with no credit to qualify, there are now quite a few options for those with no credit.

And applying through a bank where you already have an account may significantly increase your odds of being approved.

2. Retail Stores

Sometimes these cards are easier to get, as you can typically only spend money in the store for which you hold the card. However, many of those stores have different card options, some of which DO work in other venues.

If there’s a particular retail store you frequent often, try there, especially if you have no credit. These are easy to get approved for, but they generally have higher interest rates.

3. Other Financial Institutions

Lenders other than banks also offer credit cards. Some only offer to low to high credit, but some lenders who offer cards to those without any credit yet.

What If It’s Difficult to Qualify?

Getting your first credit card isn’t always easy. If you don’t get an offer on your own, you could always try enlisting a co-signer in your application.

Your co-signer’s credit history and income will be used to determine whether or not you are eligible.

A secured credit card is another viable option, and banks offer them a lot of the time.

The way it works is that you’ll put a deposit on the card first, and the lender may match those funds, or approve you for a certain amount.

It makes things less risky for the lender in choosing to trust someone with no credit.

How Should You Manage Your First Credit Card?

There are a few tips and tricks that will make your first credit card adventure a success.

Make Your Payments on Time

First and foremost, make all of your payments on time. Late payments will only lower your credit rating and put you further into the hole. Plus, there’s no sense in starting with bad habits.

Don’t Outspend Your Pockets

If you can help it, don’t ever spend more than what you could pay in full. If you pay your balance in full every month, you’ll avoid significant interest charges and a lower credit rating.

Plus, when you purchase things you technically can’t afford, you’re borrowing from and making decisions for your future self.

Watch Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Try to keep your credit utilization ratio under 30%. If the amount of credit you’ve used is not significantly lower than the credit you currently have available, you won’t be building good credit.

Be Ready Before You Get Your First Credit Card

Before you get your first credit card, it’s in your best interest to open up and use a checking account with a debit card.

You must know how to manage your money and to put bills and essentials ahead of other purchases.

Plus, you must make your payments on time and make more than the minimum payments. And the lower you keep your credit utilization ratio, the better it is for your credit.

If you’re determined to better your credit, here are some life-saving tips that’ll boost your score quickly.

And if you’re ready for your first credit card or have any questions, give us a call.

6 Advantages of Taking Out a Short-Term Personal Loan with Bad Credit

6 Advantages of Taking Out a Short-Term Personal Loan with Bad Credit

Believe it or not, there are ways that a short-term loan can help improve bad credit. Find out the advantages of taking out short-term personal loan here.

Over 43 million Americans have bad credit.

If you have bad credit, you might think you are stuck in a never-ending cycle. You need good credit to be approved for a loan, but you need to be approved for loans to build your credit.

If you can get approved for a loan, the terms are usually less than favorable.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve your credit quickly and easily. One option is to take out a short-term personal loan.

These types of loans come with many benefits and few disadvantages. They can help build your credit and don’t come with the tradeoffs that bad credit loans usually do.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of short-term personal loans.

1. They Improve Bad Credit

Short-term personal loans allow you to have your cake and eat it too.

Most loans that those with less than stellar credit are approved for aren’t worth taking. The cost is often too high to the borrower.

And that’s if you can even get improved.

So if your credit doesn’t qualify you for a loan, how do you build your credit? This is where short-term loans come into play.

Short-term loans are less risky for the lender and the lender can expect to be paid back more quickly than with long-term loans. Short-term personal loans are customizable by the borrower.

This means you can choose a loan that works for you. If you simply want to use this type of loan to improve your credit, you can take out a loan for a few months.

So long as you repay the loan within the agreed-upon time frame, your credit score will improve.

2. You’ll Save on Interest

For the most part, short-term loans will save you money.

When you have a long-term loan, you end up paying more interest. This is simply because you will be paying interest for such a long time.

With short-term loans, you pay back the loan in a much shorter amount of time. This means you’ll pay less interest.

Even if the interest rate for the short-term loan is higher because of your bad credit, the interest paid will be less in the big picture because of the shorter time paying interest.

The loan amount might also be smaller, meaning the interest paid will be less. Short-term personal loans usually have much lower interest rates than credit cards.

3. Ease of Access

If you need a loan quickly, a short-term personal loan is the loan for you.

They are similar to payday loans in the fact that they are usually approved within just hours. Waiting to find out whether you will qualify for a loan can be torture, especially if you aren’t sure if your credit score will measure up.

While it depends on your lender, in most cases you will receive your funds either the same day or the next business day. This offers a level of convenience that is unique to the type of loan.

Short-term personal loans offer convenience and flexibility to the borrower. As mentioned above, the loans can be customized to fit your individual needs.

Most lenders are online and you can access their website 24/7. This means you can apply for a loan at any time and from anywhere.

4. Reduced Stress

Short-term loans are significantly less stressful than long-term ones.

You will avoid the dread of viewing your statements and continuously accruing interest for years at a time. Instead, you’ll see your loan being paid off quickly, boosting your confidence and your credit score.

When you have a long-term loan, the end is often not in sight. It’s easy for the looming loan to cause emotional stress.

Watching the interest accrue month after month and year after year can be downright torture. Even if you are making the minimum payment each month, you are barely making a dent in the principle.

Short-term loans avoid this problem and instead offer satisfaction upon repayment.

5. Less Risk

With short-term personal loans, you’ll know exactly how much you owe each month and for how long you will need to make payments.

These loans are sometimes offered unsecured as well. This means that you won’t have to put up collateral.

Common forms of collateral include personal assets like your home or car. Instead, your credit history and credit score will be enough for your lender.

If you have bad credit, you might be required to put up collateral. However, short-term loans are much easier to manage.

There is less risk of things getting out of control and you not being able to pay back the loan. As mentioned above, it’s easier to keep interest in check with short-term loans.

Therefore, your assets are at less risk. If you do end up going with a secured loan, you will have access to more favorable terms and lower interest rates.

6. Flexibility

Short-term personal loans offer you more time to pay than other fast cash options.

Payday loans, for example, have much shorter payback time frames. With short-term loans, you can set the repayment time frame so that it works with your life’s schedule.

You will also have more flexibility when it comes to choosing the amount of the loan. Borrowing limits are often significantly higher than you could borrow using a credit card.

Apply for a Short-Term Personal Loan Today

If you are looking to secure a loan with bad credit or improve your credit score, considering applying for a short-term personal loan. Your loan will help you establish good financial habits.

Click here to start your application to see if you qualify.

Consider Prepaid Debit Cards for Travel

Nothing like a beautiful sandy beach, a turquoise ocean and a cabana boy ferrying mai-tais to let you convince yourself you CAN spend a little extra. The credit card limit is twice the debt on there now, after all.  You won’t be angry at yourself for. . . say . . . another ten days or so. And you’re having so much fun!

Taking convenient prepaid debit cards on your trip instead ensures today-self and future-self remain in harmony.

European, Asian and the Middle Eastern travelers have been using prepaid debit cards for years. It’s time Americans get with this convenient — and budget-friendly — payment method. Prepaid cards are safer than cash because they require a code to redeem. You can get a prepaid card in a few days online without having to go to a bank, and there are no credit dings for getting one. Some prepaid cards can even be pre-loaded with the currency of the country to which you are traveling. In that case, if exchange rates favor your currency, you can save on purchases once you land!

Prepaid cards ensure you’re not stuck, either. You can always reload them as long as you have access to the internet. Because you reload them with funds from your bank account, you’re less likely to put too much more onto the card. Also, just the process of having to go to the internet and make the transfer helps to stop you from your impulse purchase.

Another advantage of using prepaid debit cards for travel is that you have a list of all your purchases available either via your computer or phone. This is particularly important if you have teens traveling with you. They want their independence and a little money to spend. But before you let them out of the hotel, make it clear you will know where their money is going.

While you will miss out on the rewards that credit card companies now offer, the prepaid debit card helps protect you from your own lack of discipline. That can mean more savings. Get this aspect of your travel taken care of when you order prepaid debit cards online now.

How to Manage Employee Expenses with Prepaid Debit Cards

We’ve all seen movies depicting employees whipping out the corporate credit card to pay for extravagant meals and entertainment. Business owners shudder at these scenes, and they should. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners tells us that 15 percent of all employee expenses can be categorized as fraud. In another study, 66 percent of employees admit to abusing the company card with:

  • High-priced dinners
  • Office supplies for home use
  • Mobile phone and app purchases and upgrades
  • Airline upgrades

Another portion admit to inflating transportation expenses, getting a cash refund from an expensed item and even creating a fake expense. These last three are full-on fraud. Still, with every opportunity, some people will take advantage. The credit card with a limit of thousands of dollars just trips some kind of spending wire in some employees. When a card’s limit set at $5,000, a $75 dinner for one seems reasonable.

Business owners can reduce their exposure to “expense padding” and fraud when they give their employees secure prepaid debit cards as opposed to credit cards. Like a teen with a set spending amount, employees must budget within a the debit card’s finite amount.

When presented positively, the prepaid debit card can be just as appreciated by employees as the credit card. Simply explain that the debit card works best for your taxes and/or accounting structure. Make this expense tool a decision based on business goals, not something to keep employee spending in line. Avoid mentioning potential expense abuse or fraud all together.

Other benefits of the prepaid debit card for business includes:

  • Easy availability: get instant approval from the best online sources. With online banking now as secure as traditional, bricks-and-mortar banking, anyone can apply for and receive prepaid debit cards within days of ordering. Pay using your credit card or business bank account.
  • No credit card dings: prepaid debit cards do not intersect with your business’s credit rating in the least. From the moment you buy it until the moment the employee spends the last $5, the debit card involves only up-front cash transactions.
  • Convenience: Prepaid business cards are accepted everywhere the issuers’ cards are accepted. In-store, online and phone purchases all work with a prepaid debit card.
  • Better employee spending controlLoad the card with a set limit of money and task the employee to stay within that amount. As with a credit card, debit cards allow you to track exactly what the employee spends. Some companies even let you monitor business card transactions from your computer or mobile app. Business owners can even freeze and unfreeze the debit card as needed.

Prepaid Debit Cards Control Employee Spending So You Don’t Have to!

Some businesses choose company credit cards rather than debit cards because of the potential for rewards and the lower fees. Debit cards can also come with more fees than credit cards. Still, when compared to the financial losses due to abuse, these fees are negligible.

When a small business becomes a mid-sized business, expenses accounts follow quickly, especially for sales professionals. Then, additional office locations can mean travel expenses. Debit and credit cards empower employees to make their own decisions while keeping spend under control.

Overlooked Benefits of Credit Card Usage

Want to maximize your money and scrutinize your spending? Use credit cards! Most come with no monthly fee, and if you pay them off every month, no interest accrues. In addition to convenience at the parking structure exit and online store, credit cards make life easier in so many ways.

Credit Cards Protect Your Purchases

Hopefully, you choose your purchases only after careful consideration. If you want extra protection, however, use credit cards for online purchases and even large in-person transactions. Money transferred via debit card, check or cash is far tougher to retrieve if the purchase turns out to be defective or not what you have expected. With credit cards, however, you can call the issuer and dispute the charge. This puts the financial transfer on hold until the vendor can satisfy the buyer, until the vendor agrees to return the money, or the bank sides with the consumer and refuses to pay. The protections afforded by the credit card give you a chance to try out the product so you can make sure you’ve gotten what you expected.

Consider, too, putting home and lawn remodeling on a credit card to protect yourself. If you cut a down-payment check up front, that money is gone. A landscaper can leave your yard an excavated mess and never show up again. If you put the down-payment on a credit card, you can dispute the charges and hopefully get your money back from the bank. While a dispute is pending, you won’t have to pay interest charges according to federal law.  If your credit issuer decides in your favor, you won’t owe anything.

Credit Cards Protect You from Fraud

Barely a month goes without hearing about how a large company’s customer data has been hacked. Your financial liability for charges resulting from identity theft depends how quickly you find out about it and alert the card issuer. Federal law mandates that your liability for credit card fraud can never be more than $50.00.

You Want Vacation Benefits

Hotels, restaurants and car rental companies know your credit card most likely has a higher limit than the money in your checking account. They want you to use your credit card and will offer all kinds of incentives if you pull out the plastic. All you need is a little self-discipline to take advantage of the perks without getting into over-spending. And, whatever you do, don’t fall for messages that you can afford more. Stick to your budget. They’re happy to run your credit cards up to the limit, but you have ultimate control.

The cards themselves, too, pass along incentives from time to time. If you read your credit card agreement, you may find extended warranties on large purchases, insurance coverage on rental cars or price guarantees on products bought with the card. Want to leverage every penny you earn? Read your credit card fine print! You won’t find rewards on debit cards.

Transacting business in the United States today often takes credit cards. They not only make life convenient, they make it safer and filled with more fun perks. If you want a credit card that fits your lifestyle and helps you achieve your goal, don’t hesitate to review First Financial’s wide variety of credit cards here.

How Smart Borrowers Will Leverage Credit Cards in 2020

man with empty walletTechnology continues its forward charge and no aspect of our lives is left untouched. Even credit cards are changing based on advances in coding, competition and rewards. When you know the innovations unfolding in 2019 from the best credit card issuers, you can hold out for the best perks, the most iron-clad safety and the best in customer service.

First, understand that that Gen Z, the generation born between 1995 and 2015 uses Google, Amazon and the social networks like the rest of us use laptops and texting. Gen Z will be 40% of of all US consumers by 2020, so credit card issuers will be catering to them as well as the Millennials. That means the rest of us must push ourselves to understand the newest bells and whistles that come with new credit cards. Most of all Gen Z wants highly personalized credit card experiences . . . a good thing, as card issuers will deliver more relevant offers to each of us as the years go by. Keep in mind, too, that GenZers use mobile banking apps more than desktop or tablet access. That could mean that card issuers will spend more money on their apps than on their desktop/laptop interfaces. Getting proficient with every issuer’s mobile app will ensure you get all the convenience available.

Mobile Payments Will Continue to Evolve

Up to now, consumers have dealt with clunky mobile credit card payment options. With advancing APIs and open banking, card issuers will begin to offer more valuable, customer-centric payment experiences. These will include immediate rewards, card balance alerts coming to smartphones and more, as issuers work to bring true value beyond simple credit card transactions.

Better Rewards

American consumers have embraced rewards cards. It’s no wonder. In 2018, they got a total of $15 billion in rewards value through airline miles, cash back and other perks. While the rewards enticements are raising marketing costs for card issuers, they must continue them to keep up with the competition. In fact, these marketing costs have doubled from 2008 to 2016. Still, they’re all the better for the consumer, who consistently demand more rewards. If a rewards program isn’t robust enough, consumers don’t hesitate to switch.

Another rewards-related development is real-time rewards delivery. While today rewards get redeemed after a month or so, experts predict they could come through with every purchase soon. Look for that advantage as you review your options in the coming year!

Credit Cards Getting Even Safer

Chipped cards did help with credit card safety, but even more safety measures are coming down the pike. “Tokenization” is a system that creates a unique code for each customer and purchase on each website. If this code is stolen, it won’t work for any other transaction. Listen for the term, tokenization as credit cards advertise to you via the internet and live streaming.

Cards used everywhere

Babyboomers remember when only department stores accepted credit cards. Now Etsy vendors, salsa makers at the Farmer’s Markets and ecommerce stores ALL accept credit cards. This trend will grow to include service providers as well. This means, soon, you won’t have to stop for cash to go to the resale shops or roadside stands. PayPal, Venmo, Stripe and Square will enable even the smallest businesses to accept payments. Universal acceptance is on its way!

Be alert to these changes and demand them from the credit card issuers you are considering. In the customer-centric era, they will be competing with each other to give you the lowest rates and the best rewards.

Apply Now

Know the 4 Most Common Auto Loan Mistakes Before you Go to the Dealer

cash and car for auto loan
Be aware of auto loan pitfalls and save! 

 

Want to hear something scary? “The big mistakes are made in the financing office,” explains Phil Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com, the auto research website. “Making the right decisions can save thousands over the life of the loan.”

A car is a big purchase with a lot of moving parts. Dealers makes their profits between the gaps in buyer’s knowledge and they may try to confuse by unleashing lots of terms like “negative equity” and “origination fees.” Use these recommendations from experts to save thousands over the life of your car loan.

Don’t let the dealer define your credit score or credit “worthiness.”

Walk into the showroom with your credit report snugly in your back pocket. Otherwise, you run the risk that the salesperson leaves your negotiation only to come back with bad news about your credit. And of course that score isn’t high enough to get you the best rates. Who knows if he or she was checking your scores or playing a quick game of hacky sack? Dealers know that most consumers do not check their credit before being lured in by deals. Don’t make yourself vulnerable to this unethical treatment.

We discuss how to find your credit score easily in our previous blog post on rebuilding your credit (LINK). Just go to Annualcreditreport.com, fill out a few fields and your report arrives in you inbox instantly. Trust these results from the only free site authorized by the U.S. government’s Federal Trade Commission. Typically, anyone with a credit score of 720 or higher gets the lowest interest rates as they’ve demonstrated the most responsible money management. Still high 600s to low 700s is considered a “good” score. Those with lower scores can still get loans, but they will pay more in interest and fees.

Another way to check your credit is to get pre-approved from an outside lender like your bank or by applying for an online auto loan.  If you can manage to shave just 1 percent from your car loan, you’ll pay hundreds less over the next five or six years.  

Don’t make the wrong choice between a loan interest rate and a cash rebate.

Sure, the cash rebate feels enticing. And it might be the right choice if you use it to pay off other, higher interest loans like cash advances or credit cards. Basically, you need to decide if you want a lump sum up front or lower monthly payments over the next five or six years. Of course, not every car buyer is offered low-interest car financing, only those with the best credit scores. Again, know your score before you go to the dealership.

Don’t roll negative equity forward.

Some like to get new cars every two years. Often, they walk into the dealership with their auto loan “upside down.” That means they still owe more on the car than it’s worth. While those loving shiny new cars can get their next ride even if their loan is upside down, they’re putting themselves on a downward financial spiral.

Dealers don’t care what financial shape the car buyer puts themselves in. They will just add the negative equity–what you owe–into the purchase price of the new car. Chances are, this frequent buyer will just roll even more negative equity into the next new car, too.

Rather than enter this vicious cycle, consider buying a used car. A car loses much of its value in the first two years off the lot. And today, most cars are built to last 250,000 miles. Consider keeping the car longer and buying used to get the most for your car budget.

Don’t finance costly add-ons.

Just as movie theaters make most of their money on the popcorn, 37% of auto dealer’s profits come through aftermarket add-ons. These add-ons include  extended warranties, fabric protection and paint sealant and they are always less expensive from vendors other than the dealer. These costs feel like a no brainer when amortized over the life of the loan. The salesperson is quick to tell you that they add just a few dollars to every payment. Still, even $20 more over 60 payments is an additional $1200–real money.  

Don’t hesitate to question all fees.

With the deal wrapping up, a buyer’s guard is down. Salespeople know this well. The deal takes so long for a reason. It’s at the end that a salesperson may bring up unusual fees that may have official sounding names. Review all of the legitimate fees here and don’t hesitate to push the salesperson to drop anything that sounds suspicious.

A+ Rated First Financial Approves Auto Loans Up to $45,000

Better Business Bureau A+ rated First Financial has helped arrange over 1,000,000 auto loans, some with approved amounts of up to $45,000. We have loans for borrowers with all credit scores, even fair poor and bad credit. Take three minutes to apply here for a new or used car loan and get your answer fast!

 

How to Pay Off your Cash Advance with a Crafty E-commerce Side-Hustle

hands knitting
Craft your way to paying off bills and cash advances.

 

Did you think those oven mitts and coffee cozies were just heart-felt gifts for family? Think again! By selling your crafts online, you can get ahead financially and even pay down credit cards or a cash advance due soon.

Yes, 55% of all retail shopping happens on Amazon, but that’s the place people get products from the brands they’re always familiar with. Generic, dull products! Big brand electronics, books, tin foil, toilet cleaner. Nothing made with love and unique vision.  

As Amazon.com, Walmart.com and others continue to take over the retail space for generic products, American consumers are craving handmade, unique items for themselves and for gifts. Even better, several online platforms offer websites (LINK to other post) where crafty types can put up their own stores (beyond selling on Etsy.) These platforms have made selling online simple, even fun.

You may be even more encouraged by knowing the biggest issue ecommerce entrepreneurs face: uncertainty about what products to sell. As a craft artisan, you HAVE the rare skills to create the products  that will appeal to shoppers.

Here, we’ve listed 20 low-cost, do-it-yourself crafts that you can shape with your own color, texture and creative skills. None takes advanced skills, but they do take originality, which if you’re reading this post, you most likely have in spades.

Bath Bombs

In today’s go-go culture, who doesn’t need a bathbomb pampering. You might be surprised to learn that the ingredients of bathbombs are just: baking soda, epsom salts, food coloring, citric acid, and a bath bomb mold (~ $5).  Ambitious crafters can also add products like dissolving glitter and essential oils. These inexpensive ingredients amount to about $2 to $3 per bomb. Sell them for $5 each and you have a 100% mark-up. More, unlike crocheted or knitted items, bathbombs can be made quickly and in bulk. There are countless websites describing exactly how to make bathbombs, but more, how to make money making them.

Candles

While candles are everywhere, no one turns them down as a gift. And unique, quality candles can provide months of pleasure for the gift recipient. Crafters who make candles for birthdays, anniversaries and even unusual holidays like Opposite Day know their customers need them all year.

They key is to diverge from the low quality candles one finds in the large retail stores. With high mark-ups, these generic candles burn rapidly, often with little to no scent. Quality candles, often fashioned with essential oils, fill a room with rich ambiance and fragrance.

Getting started requires a website (and/or Farmer’s Market tables), raw materials costing under $200 and your hard work. People have made livings from creating candles infused with the spent grain from local craft breweries, excess grapes from wineries and more. Often, candle crafters can sell their company-inspired candles right to the company. Now that’s smart entrepreneurship.

Pet Toys

You thought the kids were bad? Pets go through toys fast, both by getting bored with them and destroying them at a high rate. Each year in the United States, pet owners spend $60 billion on their pets. If you can convince a dog or cat owner that your product will make their beloved happy, you should go online with it. After all, impulse buys made on emotions tend to have higher profits.

Adding an extra twist to your pet toy can push your sales even further. For instance, using eco-friendly materials can lower a shopper’s resistance, as can stating that a percentage of your profits goes to animal charities. You can create toys just for large dogs, senior dogs or puppies going through teething. Consider, too, creating toys from materials that come to you at the lowest cost. Get them online, promote them on social channels and you have a new income stream!

Handmade Soap

The power man-made chemicals unleashed astounded us . . . until we realized the damage their overuse could cause. Consumers are attracted not only to organic food, but organic cleaning compounds as well. These include mixtures made of vinegar, baking soda and other common household item. Handmade soaps have the added benefit of being less expensive and potentially plastic-free.  

With the amazing varieties of scents and dyes available, it’s easy to develop products for specific markets. In the United States, one woman makes a living using the spent grain from breweries to make soaps the brewery then brands and sells as keepsakes. Hostesses, parents and friends feel spoiled when they get to use lovely soaps that smell far better than grocery store brands.

Printed Throw Pillows

You may have gotten a deal on that new couch, but putting coordinating pillows on it will cost you another $200. If you have a sewing machine and an eye for distinctive fabrics and trims, maybe your future is in pillows.

American’s spend $62.5 billion each year in home decor. Keep up with decor  styles and colors through the design magazines to get an edge on the slower-moving corporate brands. For 2019, people are talking about bright “jewel tones” which really means just bold primary colors. Grays are out (finally!). Take photos of your creations, don’t be afraid to mix stripes with polka dots. Eclectic is in! (as long as the colors coordinate). Fabric stores constantly have sales. If you go shopping knowing with an idea of what you’re looking for, you can get your raw materials at low prices.

Resin Jewelry

With a special plastic called resin, hardener, dyes, glitter, photos and whatever you can think of, you can create beautiful pieces to sell online. Don’t forget the silicon or metal molds of course. Make a quick photo keepsake by pouring clear resin into a mold and then covering it with a carefully trimmed, small photo. Cover the photo with a sealant (like ModgePodge) and then let your masterpiece rest for 24 hours. Once it dries, pop it out of the mold and your photo sits behind a glass-like substance. Some artists like to layer in different pieces like beads, natural objects before putting a final backing on the piece. They even finish it with a layer of glitter.  Once the piece is finished, you can adorn it with wooden elements, silver or gold wire as well.

Keychains

The keychain never goes out of style. Today, keychains come in the forms like initials, animals and scenes from tourist attractions. All of these shapes indicate the user’s identity. People can’t resist items that reflect their egos. If you can shape leather, canvas, plastic, or cloth into pieces that reflect interests and habits, you have a winner. Sell to both men and women, keeping your market large. Bonus: keychains’ small size ensure your materials go a long way.

 

Ceramics

Don’t you just get fascinated by people shaping clay on a wheel with muddy hands? A pinch here and a squeeze there reshapes the piece entirely. Ceramics amy seem challenging but you can start with a simple bowl. If this tactile hobby feels irresistible, you could be on your way to a whole new side-hustle.  Adding acrylic paint, glitter, and even nail polish can further hone your brand.

Whichever of these craft avenues you choose, rest assured you can find a market for your work. Reaching your market is easier than ever with an online store and social advertising. Don’t let money worries overtake you. Use your spare time to create something beautiful and profit from it!

 

Credit Score Hit by Holiday Shopping? How to Rebuild with Credit Cards

 

The bill for the holiday fun comes due in January when the credit card statements arrive. You may even have used a quick cash advance to get all your gifts purchased during November and December. Prepare now to tackle those bills AND improve your credit score throughout the new year.

Step 1: A Few Clicks Gets Your Credit Report in Your Inbox

The first of the year inspires all kinds of resolutions. If you want this new year to be when you get your financial house in order, it’s time now to tackle that daunting document: your credit report.

You’re entitled to a free credit report every 12 months. Annualcreditreport.com is the only free site authorized by the U.S. government’s Federal Trade Commission. Don’t be intimidated. Just fill out a few fields, check some boxes and it comes right to you.

Step #2: Take a Look at Your Credit Utilization

Statement in front of you? Good. We’ll take it step by step.

The first element of your credit card examine is your credit utilization–basically, how much credit you have used compared to the total that banks are willing to lend you. Those using 50% of their available credit on any one account or 50% of credit offered across ALL accounts have lower scores than card holders using less than that halfway point. If you’ve spent $10,000 of a $15,000 limit, you’re using 67% of your available credit. Your annoying brother-in-law using only $5,000  of a $15,000 limit has a 33% credit utilization rate.

Credit utilization accounts for a whopping 30% of your score. It’s also rather simple to improve. How? Apply for new credit cards and ask for the highest limits. Then, assuming you start with the $15,000 credit limit we discussed above, an additional $10,000 in new credit available to you gets you to a new limit of $25,000.  $10,000 out of an available $25,000 credit line creates a 40% credit utilization, far lower than 67%. Keep working on it and you’ll be below 30% in no time.

Credit card limits are tricky. Even if a credit card issuer approves you for $10,000 or $20,000, it doesn’t mean they think you have the income to spend all of that. Approved for $20,000? Best to keep your debt to $10,000 and under.

Your new January approach will be to work your credit card balances down below 50% of your limits or the amount your bank permits you to borrow. Whether that’s through paying down balances or opening new credit lines depends on your financial situation.

Step 3: Look at Late and Missed Payments

Where credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score, late payments impact it even more. Even one payment that’s late 30 days starts shaving points, but 60 and 90 day late payments wreck real havoc. At 120 days, most card issuers hand the account over to a collections agency. Now you’re talking about having your credit score drop into the 500s.

If you see that you have late payments, don’t despair. These three options may get them removed:

  • Ask the creditor for a “goodwill adjustment,” based on the responsible payments you have made.
  • Tell the creditor you will sign up for automatic payments debited from your bank account if they remove the late payment.
  • Claim the late payment is inaccurate. This works only if you have documentation, however.
  • Employ a professional to negotiate with the creditor.

After you’ve addressed your credit utilization and payment history data, you can go forward knowing exactly how to put your best foot forward in rebuilding your credit.

Step 4: Rebuild with Secured Credit Cards

With a firm understanding of how credit scores are calculated and how your behavior contributes to them, you can be confident about finding credit cards that will stabilize your finances.   

Keep that positive in mind when you find out that you most like will need to start out by using “secured” credit cards that have fees, low limits and may even require a deposit. Banks and the U.S. government want you spending, so the secured credit card is the way they make it happen.

These credit cards work just like a regular credit card, except you deposit often the same amount of cash collateral that they permit you to spend. What’s the benefit, then? These secured credit cards report to the three credit bureaus ( Experian, TransUnion and Equifax ) that you’ve shown responsible use of your secured credit card. Every on-time payment gets documented.

Eventually, the secured credit card company should approach you about using an unsecured credit card, where you don’t have to put up the cash. If they don’t after six to nine months, by all means apply for a different unsecured credit card or approach your current company for the same opportunity. The credit card company will consider how you’ve managed –not only your secured card– but all of your credit cards and loans.

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Once you get the unsecured card, your collateral from the secured card comes back to you, given you’ve paid all charges.  

Come Back from Your Holiday Spend the Smart Way

Holidays are not ALL about the gifts, but they sure make these few days out of the year more fun. And the fun is not just in receiving, but giving. In fact, studies have shown that those who spend money on others feel happier  and have more of a sense of purpose than those who don’t. Gift exchange has promoted connection and well-being since prehistoric times. If your generosity is crushing your credit score, rest assured you can work your way out slowly but surely.

 

Escape Credit Card Debt: Debt Settlement or a Personal Loan?

Cutting credit card to get personal loan

Many consumers have received phone calls explaining that they can settle their credit card debt for a fraction of its total. While this is possible, taking the debt settlement route can have negative consequences on your long-term financial health.

Debt settlement works this way:  a company acts as an intermediary, making calls to your credit card company or another creditor for you.

The personal loan, on the other hand, is simply a lump sum of money you win from a bank or alternative lender after filling out an application form and submitting some financial documentation.

But to further guide you in deciding which path to take, here are the risks and rewards of debt settlement versus the personal loan.

Risks of Debt Settlement

Debt settlement comes with the following potential risks.

  1. Credit Damage.

A debt settlement company negotiates with your creditor to demand less money that what you actually owe. Your creditor, in turn reports this event to the credit bureau, explaining in detail that your debt was settled for less than how much was owed. Credit bureaus degrade your credit score.  Further, seeing this history future car, home and bank lenders will be reluctant to do business with you.

  1. Implications on taxes.

The money you escaped paying isn’t the free pass debt settlement companies imply. The IRS will demand a slice of this “discount” in your taxes. You will pay taxes on it as if it is income. Your debt settlement company sends information to the IRS and to you. In fact, if you do choose to use a debt settlement company, make sure to ask up from what the tax implications are.

 

Rewards of Debt Settlement

Debt settlement does help consumers reduce their debt. Also, when you try of applying for a loan when you still have not fixed your debt yet, you are certainly going to have a hard time. As a matter of fact, lenders are highly unlikely to be willing to work with you if this is the case. But when you do eliminate your debt, you will be attracting more lenders to work with you and even open up a lot of other opportunities for your own success.

  1. Save more money.

Giving your lender a lesser amount of the amount owed leaves more money for you to use to buy a car, home or other asset. Make sure you maximize the amount forgiven you will only be successful in this when you have already mastered the labyrinth of debt settlement.

  1. Put an end to the collection.

Aggressive creditors can make your life a nightmare. Even more frightening, when you do not respond, they file a lawsuit which could be served in public and end up garnishing your wages. Debt settlement puts this interference to a stop.

 

Risks of Personal Loan

  1. High interest rates.

Many are surprised that personal loan rates are typically sometimes twice as high or higher than home and auto loan rates. The better your credit score, the lower rate you will get. Still, those with personal loans pay a lot of end their creditors calls.

  1. Penalties for early payoff.

Some lenders charge high penalties if you pay the loan off early. Make sure to read the terms and regulations of the contract or ask your loan officer. First Financial personal loans never have penalties for early pay off.

  1. Complications that are unnecessary.

A personal loan should be simple:  you apply for a personal loan, the company pays for your debt, and in turn, you will be going to pay the company. View additional fees or meeting with bankers with suspicion.

Rewards of Personal Loan

  1. Improved credit score

The thing about having a personal loan is that it can pay off your credit card debt in no time. The credit bureaus also see this move as a commitment to pay the debt rather than escape it by going into debt settlement. This move reveals your habits of paying your debts and impresses lenders.

  1. No risked property.

A personal loan does not require property for collateral. Therefore, if you do default on it, you aren’t at risk for foreclosure or repossession.

A+ Rated First Financial Personal Loans for Borrowers of All Types, Even Bad Credit

When considering personal loans, don’t forget that online lenders have the automation and reduced overhead to offer the best loans and terms. First Financial is the national leader in providing personal loans for borrowers of all types, even bad credit borrowers. Just fill out our simple application form, and get the money in your account in a matter of days. The Better Business Bureau rates First Financial A+ because we make customer service our highest priority.

 

3 Profitable Firearm and Ammunitions Businesses to Start in 2017

gun shop owner with guns and ammo

Some gun shop owners make six figures each year! 

 Despite potential legislation limiting gun availability, America’s gun enthusiasts will never let legislators overturn the Second Amendment.

In fact, in 2013 American companies alone produced 11 million guns and sold all but 440,000 right here in the 50 states. Americans and U.S. companies imported an additional 5.5 million.[1]

Gun ownership’s bright strand in the fabric of American identity promises a stable future for firearms and ammunitions companies.

The following are the three most related businesses you can actually start as being in the firearms and ammunitions industry:

  1. Firearm Training Instructor

Start Up Costs:            $2,000 – $5,000

Typical Salary:                         $50, 000

 

Gun lovers with excellent shooting skills, patience and an affinity for social interaction can consider training others on the proper use of guns. The numbers of gun owners are only growing and these new clients need someone to help guide them in their new hobby. With many Americans now taking self-defense with firearms classes, demands for firearm training instructors have tripled in just the last few years. What a good way to start being paid for something you love!

Those interested in becoming firearm instructors need to explore state regulations. Having a Department of Justice certification will go far in credibility for your career. Some states only require a reasonable apprenticeship and passing of the Firearms Safety Test.

Once licensed, market yourself and your services is by networking at shooting ranges and gun clubs and seminars. You should have a full roster of clients in no time.

  1. Gunsmithing

 Start Up Costs: $1,000

Typical Salary:  $60,000  (full-time)

Gun hobbyists who like to work with their hands and would enjoy exposure to many styles of firearms can put out a shingle as a gunsmith. Many take gunsmithing up as a “side hustle,” a way to supplement a regular income.

Anyone close to the gun community knows that people treat their weapons gingerly and almost with beloved-pet-level care. In other words, gun owners spend on their guns!

While a hobbyist can begin charging at any time, having some training establishes credibility. Still, getting a credential from the American Gunsmithing Institute will add to your skills. Similarly, the Modern Gun School in Wilmington, Delaware has trained thousands of gunsmiths already. Still, many schools exist around the country, many of which have courses you can take online.

As you start your business, keep in mind that many gunsmiths fail because they don’t charge enough to cover expenses. Tally up your operating costs before beginning, and create prices that ensure a profit.

Also, just like other business, you need to market your service. Having a table at a gun show, networking at firearms conferences and getting to know your local gun clubs and shooting ranges all help you get your name into the community. Stimulate word-of-mouth marketing by asking your clients for testimonials, preferably posted on Google or Yelp.

  1. Gun Shop Owner

Start-Up Costs: $10, 000 – $50, 000

Typical Income: $10,000 to $1,000,000

If you have the money and some business experience or savvy, opening a gun shop is the best way on getting paid for working in the firearms and ammunition industry. Starting a gun shop can costly and time consuming, however. Your first year show a loss of income rather than a profit. It doesn’t start with finding your location. There are many arrangements to make before ordering your first case of shells.

Get ready to:

  • Incorporate your business: Gun shop owners must be incorporated. Get guidance from your local Senior Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) or your City
  • Get a license and permit: Apply and get a Federal Firearms Licensee license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) before starting your shop. Brace yourself: this can be a long process.
  • Locate your shop: After confirming that you’re clear to open and run a gun shop, you can find a location. Bear in mind that federal agents will inspect the location before giving you the federal firearms license.

firearms instructor demonstrating skills at firing range

Firearms trainers can earn $50,000 per year. 

Americans cling fiercely to their guns. With the surge of terrorism both domestic and international, most want effective ways to protect their families. The firearm and ammunition industry will continue to grow over the coming decade. Your full-time or side gun business can be both enjoyable and profitable!  When you go to accept credit cards, don’t forget that First Financial is the national leader in providing merchant accounts for businesses in high-risk industries like firearms and ammunition.

[1] https://www.wired.com/2016/10/americas-got-gun-addiction-numbers-prove/

 

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