Evaluating Credit Card Offers: Essential Terms You Must Understand

Credit card offers, they're everywhere! They appear in your mailbox. They pop up while you're surfing the Internet. They're in slick brochures next to the cash register or gas pump. They're in full-page ads in the Sunday papers.

If you need a new credit card, how do you choose? You should evaluate each offer carefully, and to do that you must understand these essential terms.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) :

The interest rate charged on your account balance. (But see "Balance Calculation Methods," because the rules for computing interest from your balance and your APR can vary.) Your statement will typically show the APR and a monthly and / or daily rate based on the APR that's actually used to calculate your Monthly interest. There may be several APRs applicable to different portions of your balance, for example an introductory rate, a regular purchase rate, and a regular cash advance rate.

A fixed APR is set by the credit card company, which can generally change it with as little as 15 days advance notice, especially if you run afoul of any of the "gotchas" in the terms. These "gotchas" are often very consumer-unfriendly. For example, many companies these days reserve the right to raise your rate if you've been late on a payment to another, unrelated company.

A variable APR is tied to some widely used economic index, such as the Prime Rate. It may be stated as "prime + x%, currently y%," for example "prime + 7%, currently 13.5%." This means that when the Prime Rate is 6.5%, your APR is 13.5%. When the Prime Rate goes up or down, so does your APR. But beware, because some of the same "gotchas" apply to variable APRs as to fixed APRs. Read the fine print. It may state that if you're late with one payment, your APR will no longer be variable but will rise to an exorbitant fixed rate, usually over 20%.

The penalty APR is the rate to which your APR will immediately be raised when you violate any of the "gotchas" in the terms. This rate is usually at least 50% higher than the regular APR. Again, be sure to read the fine print to see what situations will trigger the penalty APR. You'll often see these: failure to pay this or any other account on time, exceeding your credit limit on this or any other account, excessive credit balances on your accounts in aggregate.

Balance Calculation Methods:

These are important to understand, because your APR is only part of the story when it comes to calculating the interest you'll be charged each month. The other part is how the balance is calculated to which the APR is applied. In any case the balance is multiplied by the daily or monthly interest rate. But the balance calculation is not as straightforward as you might think.

1. Two-Cycle Balance. This is the worst method from a consumer's point of view because it can lead to the highest interest calculations. Unfortunately, it's also becoming the most widely used method. To calculate the balance, add together the average daily balances for the current billing period (sometimes even including new charges) and the previous period. Here's why this is so unfriendly to you. Say you have run a balance for a few months and finally pay it from $ 200 down to zero at the end of May. You think it's safe to use the card in June for a new $ 100 purchase, and if you pay the $ 100 by the end of the June grace period, you will not owe any interest on it. But you're wrong. Since your average daily balance in May was not zero (say it was $ 120), and since you used the card in June, your interest will be calculated on May's average balance again, so even if you pay the whole June purchase in June, you Will still owe additional interest. In other words, you must wait two months, allow the account to cycle once with a zero balance, before it's safe to use it again – "safe" in the sense that you will not incur extra interest if you pay the balance in full By the end of the grace period.

2. Average Daily Balance. This was once the most common calculation method and is still popular. Add the daily balance for each day in the billing cycle, then divide by the number of days in the cycle. Depending on the terms, this may or may not include new charges.

3. Adjusted Balance. This is the best method from a consumer's point of view, but it's rapidly going the way of the dodo. Take the balance at the beginning of the billing cycle, then subtract any payments or other credits recorded during the cycle. Do not include new charges during the cycle. For example, if your beginning balance was $ 1200, and you paid $ 400 during the cycle, the balance to which your monthly rate will be applied is $ 800, regardless of any new charges.

Balance Transfer:

This means that you're charging card X to pay off (all or part of) the balance on card Y. So the balance is, in effect, transferred from card Y to card X. Why would you want to do this? Usually to take advantage of an introductory low interest rate when applying for a new card. Look closely at the terms. Sometimes these introductory rates last only a few months. The best ones are for the life of the balance. You will often have to pay a transaction fee equal to 3% of the balance transferred. Sometimes these fees are capped at $ 75 or so. Be sure to see whether or not the transaction fee excepts what you'll save in interest. If so, do not do it. Sometimes the credit card company will agree to waive the fee, especially on a new account. Do not be afraid to ask.

Cash Advance:

A cash loan charged immediately to your credit card account. Usually there is no grace period for paying off a cash advance, which means you'll be charged interest starting from the day of the loan, even if you pay it in full by the end of the billing cycle. Also this type of charge may have a higher APR than purchases or balance transfers. Check your terms. Note that some kinds of transactions, like buying casino chips or lottery tickets, may be valued as cash advances. This can also apply to writing a purchase check to your own bank account. Be sure to read the fine print.

Credit Limit:

The upper limit on your account balance. Exceeding it may result in penalties. Be very careful if your balance is close to the limit ("maxed out"), because you can exceed it without charging anything new if you fail to pay enough. Remember that just because the company has approved you for a certain limit does not mean you can afford to take on that much debt.

Disclosure Chart:

An important portion of the Terms and Conditions statement. It's a little bit like the Nutrition Statement on a food package because the law dictates what has to be listed here. If you can not stand to read all the fine print, be sure that you read this part.

  1. Fixed APR or APRs after any introductory rate (s) have expired
  2. Rule (s) for calculating variable APR (s) if applicable
  3. Grace period
  4. Annual fee if applicable
  5. Minimum per-cycle finance charge
  6. Additional fees if applicable, such as cash advance fees
  7. Balance calculation method
  8. Late payment and delinquency fees
  9. Over limit fees

Grace Period:

The time, calculated from the account cycle date, during which you can pay the balance in full without having any interest charged. This usually applies only to purchases, and only if you've paid the previous month's balance in full and on time. (Sometimes even that's not enough. See "Two-Cycle Balance" calculation method for an additional "gotcha.")

Pre-Approved:

This can be very misleading. It does not mean the company is guaranteeing to issue you the card in the offer. It just means that they chose you to receive this offer based on some general screening of your credit report. They always reserve the right to deny or alter the offer based on a more detailed examination of your records.

High Risk, Moderate Risk and Low Risk Investments

For those looking to invest, you should know that many investments can be categorized as being high risk, moderate risk and low risk. Investing is not difficult, but you should always put lots of thought and planning into it. It is also extremely important to educate yourself about the many different investments available to you so you can find those that fit best with your specific situation and lifestyle. Here are some tips regarding the three categories of investing.

Low Risk Investments

While low risk investments are usually very low key and rarely are extremely glitzy or publicized, they do offer conservative investors a way to save money for the short or long term without the risk involved that you find in other forms of investing. Low risk investments usually pay the lowest yields, but are far less volatile than many other types of investments. Low risk investments include money market funds, certificate of deposits and some types of bonds. Low risk investments are perfect for those that want to make sure there money remains safe and secure. While low risk investments don’t offer high returns, they do offer stability and security for those that can’t afford to lose money or would just like to avoid as much risk as possible. Expect low risk investments to pay out yields of 1% to 5% annually.

Moderate Risk Investments

Moderate risk investments are perfect for those that are interested in investing for the long term and would like to earn moderate yields. Moderate risk investments are usually certain kinds of stocks, bonds and mutual funds that pay handsomely over the long term. While generally riskier than saving money in a bank, for those that are looking to invest for the long term, historically speaking you will grow your money quite nicely. Moderate risk investments usually use the power of compound interest and time to create a nest egg from 10 to 40 years with regular savings. For instance, saving 1K per year at an interest rate of 10% for 30 years can return close to 200K. Moderate risk investments usually return yields of 5% to 12%.

High Risk Investments

High risk investments are those investments that if you are lucky can return huge yields, however the downturn is that they can be extremely volatile and in many cases instead of getting rich off your investment, you find yourself losing some or all of it. High risk investments include penny stocks, international stocks, some types of Forex trades, etc. The sky is the limit for returns, but many high risk investments- if considered a winner should return yields that range from 10% to 30%++.

Pre Employment Screening: Applicant Tracking Solutions With This Feature

When hiring new employees, background checks are essential. More specifically, pre-employment background checks are used by many companies before they even consider hiring someone. The screening process for a potential employee will give you the appropriate information you need to see if they are the right fit for you and your company.

There are many bullet points under the pre-employment screening process that a recruiter professional might want to consider. The first is a credit report. Some employers, for one reason or another, decide to hire a candidate based on their credit report – but they can not just obtain one freely. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, before an employer obtains a credit report they must get written consent from the candidate. A copy of the credit report must be given to the applicant and they have the right to challenge the report. Bankruptcies, which can also apply to a pre-employment screening can appear on a candidate or employee's credit report. However, discriminating or hiring based on a person who has filed for bankruptcy is prohibited under the Federal Bankruptcy Act.

Education is often a factor when it comes to the hiring process. Even so, there are regulations when it comes to obtaining school records such as transcripts. Along with some state laws, the Family Educational Rights and Private Act are to remain confidential and require permission from the student.

Another facet of the pre-employment screening process are criminal records. A candidate's criminal past can also help inform a recruiting professional's decision. However, there are regulations that vary from state to state when it comes to hiring a candidate based on their criminal history so it would be wise to consult with a law professional so that everything is compliant.

The use of lie detector test in a pre-employment screening process is not allowed under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. There are some exceptions such as security guard services, alarm system professionals, businesses that utilize armored car services and many who are involved in the pharmaceutical business.

Medical records also play a role in pre-employment screening . Again, an employer can not discriminate against a potential employee based on a persons physical or mental disability. This is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, an employer can ask about a candidate's ability to do the tasks of the job they are applying for. For example, if the applicant is applying for a job that requires heavy lifting, the employer can ask if they do have the ability to perform tasks that require heavy lifting.

There are many ins and outs when it comes to the pre-employment screening process. By knowing what to screen for and how to screen for it, a business can make their hiring process effortless.

Car Charity Donations: How To Go About Them Seamlessly

Every once in a while, the need for a new car arises, and when it does, many people are often at a loss on what to do with their current or old car. The options most of them have in mind include delivering the old car to a junk yard, selling it, or possibly relinquishing ownership to a friend or relative. Yet, car charity donates provide a fourth and better option, which is totally hassle-free.

First things first, car charity donation reiterates the transfer of ownership of an automobile one no longer needs to a charitable organization. People do this for various reasons including tax relief, but before one jumps onto the bandwagon of car donation, they need to know the basics of how car charity contributions work.

People have been told that the process of donating a car to a charitable organization is as easy as calling them to come and drive or haul it away. Well, this is true, but like everything else in life, one has to prepare their car for donation to avoid unnecessary complications that may come afterward.

Since the donation process involves a complete transfer of ownership, it is advisable to capture clear images of the inside and outside of the car, if possible, with dates. This is necessitated by the fact that once the car leaves the custody of the donor, so does its official documentation including proof of ownership documents. Some unscrupulous individuals or organizations are likely to take advantage of this loophole to defraud otherwise good-intentioned citizens of their cars for selfish gain. Having clear images of the car just before the donation can help with the recovery process should the need arise.

Another element of preparation worthy considering prior to donating a car to charity involves keeping track of repair and maintenance records. This applies to cases where the car needs to be fixed before before donation. The service and spare part receipts increase the value of the car when dealing with the taxman.

Once these preliminary preparations have been completed successfully, it is time to call the charity organization to come for the car or drive it there. Most people tend to focus only on this step to show how easy it is to donate a car to charity. It is, but for the individual who seeks to draw the full benefits of donating a car to charity, the outstanding preparations are inevitable. When a representative from the organization finally comes for the car (they normally do), it is critical to ensure that they leave behind a document showing the full details of the organization in question, the car, as well as the time and reason for pickup . This should be some sort of receipt acknowledging the donation.

The above step concludes the donation process. What follows is beyond the donor's influence. All they can do from this point onwards is to wait until the car has been sold. Typically, the charity organization notifies the car donor of a sale within a span of one month after the sale is made. If they fail to do so, the donor has the right to make an inquiry about the same. When the organization sells the car, they are obliged to supply the donor with a written acknowledgment of the sale.

The donor can then proceed to claim a tax relief from the IRS using the donation documents and any other relevant documents. Also, of critical importance is that the donor may be required to inform the relevant authority about the change of ownership depending on the state in which they benefit. This serves to protect the donor from bearing the burden of tickets and other car-related costs, which should be paid for by the next owner of the car.