With Tax Day fast approaching, the roughly 20% of Americans who wait until April to file their returns have a lot of catching up to do. And that’s a recipe for costly mistakes. Taxes are complex under normal circumstances, after all, and things only get tougher when you add a time crunch to the mix. With that in mind, WalletHub compiled a list of last-minute tax tips and reminders to answer your remaining questions and help you pay off Uncle Sam without issue.
These tips are the product of both WalletHub’s industry research and our conversations with numerous experts in relevant fields, such as individual taxation, tax law and consumer psychology. Take this advice to heart, and tax season will be a breeze. You can (ac)count on it!
Tax season can be a costly, confusing time of year, with Uncle Sam expecting an on-time tribute and all sorts of schemers angling to steal refunds. The history of tax fraud is just as long as that of taxes, you see.
The pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right of all people. The U.S. Declaration of Independence makes that very clear. But as everyone discovers at some point, happiness is not so easy to achieve — unless, perhaps, you’re in a place where it is not only a state of being but also a way of life.
Location indeed plays a hand in our pursuit of such an elusive condition. For years, researchers have studied the science of happiness and found that its key ingredients include a positive mental state, healthy physique, strong social connections, job satisfaction and financial well-being. However, there’s a caveat on that last one: Wealth follows happiness — but only up to an income level of $75,000 a year. Any higher, and money ceases to influence a person’s contentment with life.
The number of credit cards in circulation and the number of people using them are crucial metrics when it comes to understanding both the payments landscape and consumer preferences. Not only do these figures speak to the overall availability of credit, but they also reveal market share by card network and indicate whether most consumers are using a single credit card for all expenses or a few cards targeted to different types of transactions. Furthermore, these statistics speak to the overall popularity of credit as a spending vehicle.
The number of credit cards from the four primary credit card networks (i.e. VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) is 636 million. (Sources: Visa.com, MasterCard.com, AmericanExpress.com, Discover.com, 2015)
Credit card debt levels offer valuable insights into the state of the economy as well as financial literacy and consumer habits. Year-over-year changes in the total debt load, for example, illustrate the economy’s trajectory, lend context to current events, and reveal potential problem areas for regulators. Similarly, average household balances and default rates enable consumers to determine if their situation is within the norm, while giving retailers and economists a sense of whether or not spending levels are sustainable.
In considering credit card debt statistics, one must not overlook the importance of charged-off debt. Pundits often ignore this old debt, which consumers have defaulted on and banks have written off their books. However, the statute of limitations for credit card debt can be up to 15 years, which means consumers will still owe the money and collectors will try to recoup it long after it’s charged-off. What’s more, failing to include charged-off debt among total amounts owed leads to a very misleading picture of consumer payment habits.
You can’t get an accurate sense of the consumer debt situation without considering credit card delinquency and charge-off rates. These metrics speak to the sustainability of consumer spending habits, indicating the ability of credit card users to stay current on their bills. For example, high delinquency rates may foreshadow a rash of defaults as well as the potential for a downturn in the economy, while a downward trend in default rates could indicate economic or habitual improvement.
Furthermore, consumers continue to owe charged-off debt for years, which means ignoring such sums will paint a misleading picture of the debt landscape.
The following represents historical data on credit card interest rates in the United States. These rates are presented as functions of credit card delinquency, national unemployment and credit card charge-offs. The margin reflects the differential above the Prime Rate.
Credit card interest rates are quite revealing, as they speak to changes in the economic environment, allow for historical comparison, and enable consumers to determine if they are getting a good deal on their credit card. Furthermore, they can be used to unearth seasonal trends in credit card offers and therefore time applications more fortuitously.
Believe it or not, the first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade didn’t take place in Ireland. Its roots are actually in the U.S., though some say Boston while others claim New York. Regardless, what began as a parade in the 18th Century is today one of America’s biggest cultural holidays. Nearly 33 million people in the U.S. claim Irish ancestry, after all. That’s more than the entire population of Ireland itself. As this lucky group of people expanded over the centuries, so too did American St. Paddy’s Day traditions. Chicago, for instance, gained fame for dyeing its river green, while other places are now known for their elaborate pageants, pub crawls or long processions of marching bagpipers.
But not every city that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day is worth kissing the Irish for. WalletHub compared 200 of the largest cities across 16 key metrics to find the best places to wear green and save some, too. Our data set ranges from “Irish pubs and restaurants per capita” to “lowest price for a three-star hotel on St. Patrick’s Day” to “weather forecast.” Read on for the list of winners, expert tips and our methodology. For cool stats about the holiday, check out our St. Patrick’s Day Fun Facts infographic.
The payments landscape has evolved significantly in recent years, with regulatory changes and technological advances creating a number of interesting dynamics that affect a consumer’s choice of spending vehicle.
For starters, the Durbin Amendment robbed banks of $8.4 billion in annual revenue by capping debit card swipe fees. Banks have, in turn, eliminated most of their debit card rewards programs and emphasized unregulated products like prepaid cards – the fastest-growing form of electronic payment from 2006 to 2012, according to the Federal Reserve. They’ve also deemphasized brick-and-mortar branches in favor of less-costly online accounts.
Credit card debt statistics speak to the financial health of American households and can foretell overleveraging bubbles that may trigger constriction across lending markets. From that perspective, the fact that U.S. consumers racked up $60.4 billion in credit card debt during the fourth quarter of 2016 represents serious cause for concern.
This is the largest fourth-quarter debt increase since 2007 as well as the third-largest in the last 30 years. And it resulted in an $89.2 billion net increase in credit card debt for 2016 as a whole, which is the most for a year since 2007.
The four major credit card networks – Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover – dictate where credit cards and debit cards can be used. They are not created equal, however. Visa and MasterCard boast a significant advantage in terms of worldwide acceptance, while Amex and Discover supplement their payment facilitation business by issuing cards directly to consumers. Card network rental car insurance, extended warranty, and fraud liability policies vary widely as well.
The card network market share statistics listed below will give you a sense of the hierarchy that exists in the card network space. Networks are compared based on credit card market share, debit card market share, purchase volume, cards in circulation, and monthly spending.