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Can Credit Card Rewards Be Coming to an End? + How to Maximize Your Credit Card Bonuses

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The gig may be up! Premium reward credit cards are falling out of favor with banks. Popular with consumers, the points-rich cards are a “financial albatross” for financial institutions, according to The Wall Street Journal. Banks had reasoned that by offering lucrative rewards, they would encourage consumers to spend more and accumulate interest and fees, yet points-savvy consumers have “figured out how to game the system” — spending enough to earn sign-up bonuses and paying on time to avoid fees, per the Journal.

Reward credit cards are one of the most popular kinds of plastic we carry today, especially as the desire for balance transfer deals and the like continues to fade. Consumers used to focus on how they could save money by shifting credit card debt around, but now more and more they are looking to profit from their card use, or at least to benefit in some way from their everyday spending habits. This change of emphasis has led to a vast increase in the number of rewards and cashback cards on the market, but where do affinity cards fit into the picture?

At its simplest, an affinity card is one which identifies the cardholder with a particular company, organization, or field of interest. The card will generally have a visual design to reflect this link, and will also offer some benefit related to the affinity topic in question. A good example is a hotel chain affinity card. If a credit card account holder travels a lot on business or for pleasure, and has a favorite chain of hotels to stay in, then a credit card linked to these hotels can offer benefits such as discounts on room reservations, a points program which lets you build up credits for free meals or use of facilities, or even access to advanced concierge services to make your stay in a new city more enjoyable.

A hotel card such as this is an example of where affinity cards and rewards cards meet and overlap, but the affinity card will have a more tightly focused reward scheme than the general card.

Another kind of affinity card which has grown in popularity over recent years is a charity credit card. In many ways, these cards can be viewed as variations on cashback credit cards, where a small percentage of everything you spend using the card is refunded. The crucial difference with a charity card is that instead of the cashback being credited to your account or sent to you in the form of a check, it is instead donated to the charity or charities linked to the card. Animal charities are popular, as are health research charities, but the range is huge and you’re sure to be able to find a charity card supporting a non-profit that you’d like to support.

Closely related to charity cards are sports affinity cards. These operate in much the same way, but instead of donations being given to charitable organizations, they’re instead passed on to the card holder’s favorite sports team. By holding one of these cards, you can help support your team financially, while also declaring your support with your team’s logo or badge emblazoned on the card itself.

The final kind of affinity card could be loosely termed a lifestyle card, and rather than giving you direct rewards or supporting your favorite organization, they are simply run of the mill credit cards that visually reflect an interest or hobby – for example, your favorite TV show, or work of art. For obvious reasons, these cards are not overly popular these days, as cards offering more concrete benefits have overtaken them in usefulness.

So are affinity cards worth using? In general, they probably won’t offer such a great range of features as a market leading general credit card, but if you can find one that closely fits your lifestyle, then they can be very attractive and well worth applying for. They also will probably be around longer than other rewards cards since they allow consumers to shop at their favorite locations.

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

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Amazon Prime Day Kicks off W/ Competition + How to Kick off the Habit of Paying Full Price

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Ready, set, go! Amazon’s Prime Day starts today and continues through Tuesday, bringing a whole new meaning to retail wars, as Walmart becomes the latest rival to try to get in on the mid-summer online-shopping bonanza. This year marks Amazon’s fifth year of Prime Day, and according to Salesforce’s Rob Garf, the shopping event has prompted “rising shifts” for the entire month of July. Target and eBay have also announced sales of their own. There is definitely competition in these mean retail streets but how do you compete with yourself to save money?

I have a friend who spent time as an intern and then as an assistant buyer at a Fortune 500 specialty brand, and from her experience, she vowed never to pay full price for a pair of jeans again (unless the price is already right of course). Working in the buying department opened her eyes to reality behind retail. For instance, jewelry can be marked up to at least five times its value. As a buyer, you’re the one who actually chooses what looks go into each door. You also have the privilege of watching sales trends and dealing with a lot of retail math. You consider the cost of goods sold, retail price, and yes, the markup.

Markup is when a company produces or purchases a good at one price and then sells the good for a higher price.

Here’s how it works:

Selling price = [(Cost) ÷ (100 – percentage markup)] × 100.

So, a company buys a pair of jeans at wholesale for $60 and needs to sell it at a 60 percent markup. The calculation would be [($60) ÷ (100 – 60)] x 100. This breaks down to ($60 ÷ 40) x 100, resulting in a selling price of $150.

By having a markup on goods, a company is able to earn profits even when goods go on sale. But what does that mean for the consumer? Well, your pricey luxury shoes, shirt, and hand bag aren’t all that expensive. You just paid an absurd amount for it.

This leads me to the premise of this article – start at the sales rack. Being trendy with your finances should come before fashion. See what deals you can get before paying full price. There is nothing more fashionable then extra cash in your money bag.

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Another One! U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Wins Again + How to Win in Your Personal Finances

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The U.S. women’s soccer team are the World Cup champions after beating the Netherlands 2-0. It’s the fourth title overall for the Americans, and the first time they have won back-to-back trophies. The team has also launched itself into the gender pay gap debate with its lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation: the women can expect a guaranteed payday of about $250,000 with Sunday’s title, says the New York Times, while the winning team of the men’s World Cup would have received roughly $1.1 million each, per CNBC.

What about in your personal finances? How do you win? The short-term sacrifice of becoming financially focused early on has long term benefits that are totally worth it also. Here are just a few:

Financial Freedom. The definition of financial freedom varies depending on the person, but it boils down to being able to cover life’s necessities, including food, clothing, and housing expenses. Buckling down in your twenties and thirties to focus on laying a financial foundation leads to financial freedom. And the sooner you get there, the better off you’ll be.

Stress Free Living. Most stress is self-imposed and generally centered around money. Some relationships crumble due to tension perceived by finances. The highest liability we encounter is housing. The second and third largest consist of health care and food. While food and medicine are ongoing obligations, owning a home can eliminate a chunk of financial responsibility, freeing up more money to save and invest. Start early when it comes to homeownership. You may miss a few parties, but the peace that comes with owning the home you rest in will be made up for it.

Generational Wealth. Chances are you’re considering starting a family. What better way to honor those you love with an abundant financial future? Each generation should be able to start a notch above the last. Investing five years of your young adulthood can make a 10-year difference in the lives of your unborn children. This sacrifice isn’t only for you but for those to come after you.

More Time. We are not so much looking for more stuff but for more time to enjoy the stuff we already have and the people we can share that stuff with. The reason most look to retirement is to enjoy what they have worked so hard for. The moment you decide to be financially responsible is the moment you begin to enjoy the journey, both the highs and lows of creating wealth. By all means, don’t save the party until the end. Celebrate while you build but remember to never lose focus of the building. 

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Nike AIMS to Get on the Right Side of History + How to Be on the Right Side of Your Legacy

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Nike has pulled a U.S.A-themed sneaker from its range after receiving objections from Colin Kaepernick, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing anonymous sources. The former NFL player reportedly told the company that the early American flag featured on the Air Max 1 USA, created in celebration of July 4, was offensive due to its connection to slavery. Nike also recently stopped selling some products in China after a designer’s support for Hong Kong protests sparked backlash, and reportedly cancelled a sneaker in May following objections.

The flag in particular is the Betsy Ross flag which Wikipedia states: The Betsy Ross flag is an early design of the flag of the United States, attributed to Betsy Ross, using the common motifs of the alternating red-and-white striped field with five-pointed stars in a blue canton. Grace Rogers Cooper noted that the first documented usage of this flag was in 1792.[1] The flag features 13 stars to represent the original 13 colonies with the stars arranged in a circle. The 13 Colonies has a deep connection to Slavery which is where the objection is coming from.

It is good to see that someone is using their influence in the right way, but also this tells you how influence can affect the bottom line. This move is helping Nike create or clean up its legacy.

We are now in graduation season, and for many students, graduating college is an enormous feat that starts the beginning of their legacy. But after you are now free to do as you wish, how do you continue to add to that legacy? Yes, you are going to start a billion dollar business or work as an exec for a fortune 500 company but beyond your title and accolades, what else can you bring to the table? The truth of the matter is that what you do with your money is more important than how much you have. It is said that a good man (or woman) leaves an inheritance for his (or her) children’s children. And even if we don’t have children, leaving an inheritance of wealth on earth for the benefit of others is the truest form of what we call being rich. If one is truly wealthy, he or she freely gives. Making your riches count is found in your legacy. So, while we may not fully understand what our legacy will be when all is said and done, we can aim to leave the following:

Knowledge & Wisdom.

Maya Angelou told Oprah Winfrey that no one truly knows their legacy because they can influence different people differently. No matter your level of education, you have the ability to give a word of wisdom because the wise are those who have experienced life and learn lessons along the way. Never underestimate your ability to encourage another person.

Kindness.

Ellen DeGeneres is synonymous with kindness. At the end of each show, she can be heard saying Be Kind to One Another. The impact that she has had on students, families, young stars, and animals is surely a legacy. Something as simple as kindness, an ability we all have access to because it resides in us, goes a very long way. It literally changes lives.

Money & Assets.

Robert Kiyosaki said money isn’t everything, but it does affect almost everything in our lives that is important. Leaving beyond money and financial assets to your children and their children can put your loved ones ahead 10, 20, and even 50 years. While you are building wealth, keep future generations in mind. Most of our early adulthood is spent paying school loans, discovering our purpose, and laying a financial foundation. Imagine what life would be like if your parents set up twice as much as they did for you financially. You’d most likely be at least five years ahead of where you are.

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