Get ready to crank up your air conditioner — and utility budget. July tends to be the hottest month of the year. So if you’re trying to beat the heat, this month’s higher-than-usual power bill could burn a hole through your wallet.
In the U.S., energy costs eat between 5 and 22 percent of families’ total after-tax income, with the poorest Americans, or 25 million households, paying the highest of that range. And lower energy prices don’t necessarily equate to savings. Where we live and how much energy we use are a big part of the equation. For instance, although electricity is relatively cheaper in Southern Louisiana, its scorching summer heat raises costs for residents compared with the temperate climate in more energy-expensive Northern California, where heating and cooling units stay idle most of the year.
Credit card companies are the banks and credit unions that issue credit cards to consumers and small business owners. They also service cardholders’ accounts by billing for purchases, accepting payments, distributing rewards and more. Examples of major credit card companies include Bank of America, Barclays, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and Wells Fargo. Credit card networks play a different role. They dictate where credit cards can be used, facilitate payment processing at the point of sale and administer secondary credit card benefits, such as rental car insurance, travel insurance and extended warranties. The four major card networks are Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover.
The names of both a credit card’s issuer and its network are listed on the front of the card. The only exceptions are store credit cards, which don’t belong to a card network and can only be used at the retailers they’re affiliated with.
Most Americans rely on cars to get around. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “87 percent of daily trips take place in personal vehicles.” And even with growing access to public transportation in U.S. cities, most people still choose to travel by car, mainly for reasons such as “comfort and reliability.”
In truth, however, driving is often a major hassle and expense. Drivers annually spend an average of more than 290 hours on the road. For a full-time worker, that’s the equivalent of a seven-week vacation. Add the costs of wasted time and fuel due to traffic congestions, and our collective tab comes to about $124 billion annually, or $1,700 per household.
Running a city is a tall order. The larger the city, the more complex it becomes to manage. In addition to representing the residents, local leaders must balance the public’s diverse interests with the city’s limited resources. That often means not everyone’s needs can or will be met. Leaders must carefully consider which services are most essential, which agencies’ budgets to cut or boost and whether and how much to raise taxes, among other decisions.
But how do we measure the effectiveness of local leadership? One way is by determining a city’s operating efficiency. In other words, we can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget.
10,000 more bonus miles for spending $25,000 in a year
No foreign transaction fee
$150 annual fee starting the second year
No initial bonus
The Verdict: The Barclays Arrival® Premier World Elite Mastercard® is a solid option for frequent travelers with good or better credit who want one card they can keep for years. But this new offer, which Barclays (a WalletHub partner) calls the “Premier Global Travel Card,” has a lot to offer.
Arrival Premier is making a name for itself by offering a very different value proposition than much of its travel rewards competition. It replaces the big initial bonus common among rewards cards right now with an annual spending bonus. You get 15,000 bonus miles for spending $15,000 in a year, plus another 10,000 points if you spend $25,000. That means you can score $150-$250 in bonus travel each year you use Arrival Premier, as its miles are worth a penny apiece when redeemed for travel statement credits.
Potentially High Regular APR Makes It Costly To Carry A Balance
The Verdict: Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® (Barclays is a WalletHub partner) is the best travel rewards credit card on the market, largely because cardholders accrue maximum earnings on all purchases and have the freedom to redeem miles for any travel-related expense. It’s everything a 21st Century traveler needs in a credit card: straightforward, unmatched earnings with a no-strings-attached redemption policy that actually adds flexibility. So you should make sure to check it out if you haven’t already started packing your bags.
Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® offers more value per dollar than any other travel rewards card on the market (excluding co-branded offers, which lack flexibility yet may provide greater earning potential for certain brand-loyal consumers). Highly profitable, relatively unrestrictive travel rewards are thus the Arrival Plus Card’s bread and butter. And while it does ostensibly have some financing value, there are a few potentially costly qualifications to consider in this regard (explained in the next section).
Minnesota is known by several nicknames, including the North Star State, Gopher State and Land of 10,000 Lakes. One of the state’s most well-known attractions is the Mall of America, which has the largest floor space of any mall in the U.S. There are also dozens of museums, like the Charles Lindberg House and Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota. If you like the outdoors, there are plenty of parks to visit, along with its famous lakes – Lake Superior, Lake of the Woods, and over 11,000 others.
Speed kills. We have all been told that since driver’s education class, and yet American drivers routinely exceed the speed limit. Before you underestimate the danger of exceeding the speed limit, consider that in 2016, speeding was a factor in 27 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths. Speeding is costly, too. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the annual economic cost to society of speeding-related crashes is $40.4 billion.
Another important issue is the impact of speeding on fuel consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as a rule of thumb, you can assume that every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph will cost you 7 percent more for gasoline.
Staying active isn’t just good for your health. It’s also good for your wallet. One of the best ways to maintain an active lifestyle is to choose a city that encourages and facilitates recreation. The best cities have a wide range of leisure activities, both indoor and outdoor. Those activities require varying levels of exercise and contribute to a city’s overall well-being and economy.
Consider neighborhood parks, which are instrumental to building a sense of community, boosting property values, improving public health and reducing pollution. In Washington, for instance, close proximity to a park increases a home’s value by 5 percent while the same types of spaces in Sacramento, Calif., result in nearly $20 million in health care savings. “A regular vigorous run can cut medical costs by an average of $250 a year” per individual, according to The Trust for Public Land. Recognizing these benefits, 100 major U.S. cities together invested more than $7 billion in parks and recreation in 2017.
The Verdict: The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card is one of the best rewards cards for people with excellent credit who like to travel and dine out (Bank of America is one of our partners). In fact, it ranked 7th overall in WalletHub’s 2018 Credit Card Rewards Report for the net value that the average person can expect to earn in two years: $1,503.
The premium rewards start with an initial bonus of 50,000 points after you spend at least $3,000 within 90 days of opening your account. That’s worth $500. And the perks keep coming, with 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining, plus 1.5 points per $1 on everything else. The average points card gives you just 1.17 per $1.
The Verdict: The BankAmericard® Credit Card is a very good tool for avoiding interest on credit card debt, whether you’re planning a big purchase or need a way to reduce the cost of an existing balance (Bank of America is a WalletHub partner). The stars of the show are BankAmericard’s $0 annual fee and its 0% introductory APRs, which apply to purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 billing cycles. If you transfer a balance, you just have to do so within 60 days of opening an account to get that rate.
Those features compare favorably to most competing offers. The average 0% purchase APR lasts for less than 10 months. And the average 0% balance transfer deal gives you about 11 months. But that is not to say BankAmericard’s financing offer is flawless. The most important imperfection for folks with expensive debt is the card’s 3% balance transfer fee. Not only is that above average for a balance transfer credit card, but it’s also a distinguishing factor between the BankAmericard Credit Card and its biggest competitors.
The Verdict: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card is a very good option for people with excellent credit who want to reduce the cost of travel without paying an annual fee. But it’s only a truly great choice for fairly low-spending Bank of America banking customers with a lot of cash saved (Bank of America is a WalletHub partner).
The party starts with a 20,000-point initial rewards bonus, worth $200 in travel, when you spend $1,000 or more within 90 days of opening your account. That’s well above average for a card offering a points-based bonus. Still, if you’re someone who spends $1,000 per month, rather than every three months, you can get at least twice as much dollar value from competing offers.
0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 billing cycles
No annual fee
Potential for a very high regular APR
3% foreign-transaction fee
The Verdict: The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card is an attractive everyday spending vehicle for people with excellent credit (Bank of America is a WalletHub partner). Things begin on a positive note, with no annual fee to worry about and the ability to earn a $150 initial bonus for spending just $500 in the first 90 days after account opening. Plus, you’ll have access to 0% financing on new purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles.
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card even supplements its base 1% cash-back earning rate with 2% back on groceries and wholesale clubs and 3% back on gas. But there’s a catch. Those bonus earning rates apply to only the first $2,500 in combined grocery, wholesale clubs and gas purchases each quarter. So if you spend more than $833 a month on such everyday necessities, you will wind up hitting that limit and earning only 1% back — slightly less than the market average of 1.04% — on all your purchases for the rest of the quarter.
Starting a business is never easy. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about a fifth of all startups typically don’t survive past year one of operation, and nearly half never make it to their fifth anniversary.
But startups fail for different reasons, a “bad location” among the most common. Choosing the right state for a business is therefore crucial to its success. A state that provides the ideal conditions for business creation — access to cash, skilled workers and affordable office space, for instance — can help new ventures not only take off but also thrive.
The Verdict: The Discover it® Secured (Discover is a WalletHub partner) is the it family’s credit-(re)building specialist, and it’s superb at the task.
That’s because it’s one of only 11 “bad credit” credit cards with no annual, monthly or processing fees and one of only nine that offer rewards. You’ll earn 2% cash back on the first $1,000 that you spend at restaurants and gas stations each quarter as well as 1.04% on everything else. Better still, Discover will double whatever rewards you rack up during the first year your account is open.
Living by the beach is the ultimate dream for many Americans. After all, beachside communities often represent a relaxed and luxurious way of life. But few realize their dream of living by the water, precisely because of the misconception that beach towns are relatively more expensive and generally less livable than landlocked cities.
Contrary to popular belief, however, many beach towns are suitable to everyday life — and easy on the wallet. So in order to determine the beach communities that are ideal for making one’s permanent home, WalletHub compared 205 cities across 58 key indicators of livability. We split our comparison into two categories, towns located by the ocean and by lakes. Our data set ranges from housing costs to share of for-sale waterfront homes to quality of beach water.
Trips get delayed, cancelled and cut short all the time, for all sorts of reasons. Luggage also gets delayed, and even lost, on a regular basis. Yet travel insurance packages typically inflate the cost of a trip by 4% to 8%. So it’s no surprise that most people are content rolling the dice. Fortunately, though, the solution might already be in your wallet.
Credit card travel insurance can reimburse cardholders in the event of cancelled trips, missed connections, lost or delayed luggage, or even death. But coverage amounts and restrictions vary widely based on the type of card you have, the company that issues it and the card network it’s affiliated with. So you don’t want to exclusively rely on plastic before looking into the details of your policy.
Credit card rental car insurance can save you a truckload of money. You won’t have to buy supplemental insurance from the rental company, for one thing. And even more importantly, it covers you in the event of damage to or theft of a rental car. Coverage up to the cash value of your rental vehicle is typical. But the best credit card rental car insurance policies give you up to $75,000.
The problem is that just 47% of people even know about credit card car rental insurance. And one-third of credit card users don’t know if their card has it. That’s an issue because you must decline a rental company’s supplemental insurance for your credit card’s coverage to work. And you can’t know to do that unless you’re familiar with how your card’s policy works.