How Much Does a Penny Weigh in Comparison to Its Worth?

Many people mistakenly believe that the U.S. penny is minted from 100 percent copper. Since the latter part of 1982, pennies are just 2.5 percent copper. The remaining 97.5 percent of the penny’s composition is zinc. Since copper is now considered an inexpensive way to trade on the commodity value of metals, many people look at their pennies in a different way. The ubiquitous penny jar can contain treasure.

Pennies are also quite heavy relative to their worth unless you happen to receive a 1934 wheat penny worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in your change. Wheat pennies with errors from the 1940s are also quite valuable. Check your change to identify old coins. It’s an educational and enjoyable pastime.

Melt Value of Older Pennies

Older pennies are worth more than their one cent face value even if they are not especially rare collectible specimen. For instance, older pennies from 1909 to 1958 (wheat) or 1959 to 1982 (Lincoln Memorial) have an average composition of 95 percent copper to five percent zinc. (Later coins as described have slightly less copper.) These pennies weigh an average 3.11 grams. Note that the 1943 steel penny has no copper or zinc.

Using current metal commodity prices, an older U.S. penny’s melt value is $2.07 (copper/pound) at 95 percent copper. The value of zinc at today’s prices is $0.70 (zinc/pound) at 5 percent zinc. Using .002220 as a pound/g conversion factor, the copper value ($2.07 x .00220) times (average penny weight of 3.11 g x .95 copper composition), the older penny is worth approximately 0.0137, or 1.37 cents.

Melting down older pennies to capture a small premium isn’t likely to capture the imagination of most Americans. However, owners of some pennies could realize a greater return by trading or selling their older specimens. For instance, a 1933 penny (more than 14 million minted) is worth between $0.50 and $1.00 in good circulated condition and about $10.00 in uncirculated condition.

Old Pennies: Worth a Fortune

Metal composition is one of the important ways that the U.S. penny has changed over time. In periods of war, pennies were minted from steel coated with zinc. However, in the late 18th to mid-19th centuries, pennies were minted from almost pure copper. From 1837-1857, pennies were actually bronze. Thereafter, pennies were composed of copper and an inexpensive bronze or nickel alloy. In late 1982, U.S. pennies are primarily composed of zinc.

Copper has tended to increase in value over time. If you owned pennies made of pure copper, the coins would be worth at least two or three times more than the spending value of one cent.

Incredibly Rare Pennies

Of course, owning rare pennies are the best way to cash in on a penny worth more than its face value. Some mostly copper pennies from the 1940s are rare but not because of their composition. Since the American Numismatic Association believes only 40 such pennies exist today, collectors trade them for huge sums. In 2012, ABC reported that buyer paid more than a million dollars to own a rare and seldom-handled bronze Lincoln penny.

The 1943 copper-bronze alloy penny is obviously a great collectible find. It’s unlikely that you’ll find one in your penny jar. Since circulated pennies in the 1940s were primarily zinc-coated steel, the rare Lincoln penny reflects a time when America used nickel and copper to win World War II.

The first 1943 Lincoln cent was resold in 1958 and brought its owner a princely sum of at least $40,000. A later collector sold one for just $10,000 during the 1981 high interest rate and inflation economy. In 1996, another 1943 Lincoln sold at more than $82,000.

Counterfeits of the rare coin are abundant. Fraudsters coat steel pennies and change the dates on 1945-1949 pennies in an attempt to lure novice collectors. Check any 1940s penny for steel content by using a magnet. If the penny sticks, it isn’t copper. If it doesn’t stick, the coin should be taken to a reputable expert for verification.

Valuable Old Pennies

Collectibles experts know that a coin’s value is reflected by what the new buyer pays for it. Many old pennies are valuable collectibles: they are worth many times their one cent face value.

Online markets show prospective buyers the actual purchase and sales prices of old pennies. Market conditions ca change quickly, so books and out-of-print magazines do not reflect actual examples in a real-time environment.

Many people are passionate coin collectors. Saving pennies to lighten your pocket or handbag load is sensible. Many pennies are intrinsically worth more than their one cent face value, and learning about the collectible value of pennies is a fascinating way to approach the history of money.

Checking your pennies every so often is an enjoyable activity to share with someone you love. You never know what you’ll find in spare change.

The Benefits of an Introductory Offer Credit Card

Introductory credit card offers may benefit consumers in several ways. A few years ago, credit card companies inundated the market with introductory credit card offers for clients with good credit, such as offering a 0 percent APR on balance transfers from other cards. With the economic downturn, however, these offers have subsided a bit, but now they are slowly making an appearance once again. If you have received an excellent introductory offer from a credit card company, there are a few benefits of taking the offer.

1. Emergency Funds

Accepting an introductory offer on a credit card is one way to keep emergency funds in your wallet. If you do not use the card for ordinary purchases, the introductory offer can provide you with a cushion in case of sudden unemployment, household emergencies and other urgent conditions that may drastically impact your financial security when cash-on-hand is low. For this benefit, you need a rolling 0 percent APR balance transfer, and you must remember to roll the balance off of the card before expiration of the introductory period. Additionally, you must be extremely disciplined to realize this benefit. After all, the funds are for emergencies only, not a family vacation or a new flat screen.

2. Pay Off High Balances

If you have a credit card with a high balance, you can greatly benefit from a balance transfer introductory rate. Many credit card companies are now offering customers 0 percent APR and no fees on balance transfers. You can pay off the high balance on a credit card on which you may be paying 8 percent or more in interest by transferring the balance to the new card. However, be sure to cut the original card up or retire it! There is no point in realizing the savings by transferring the balance to the new card only to run the original card up once again.

3. Use Introductory Offer to Lower Your APR on Other Cards

If you receive introductory offers for credit cards you do not yet have, use the offers to request a lower APR from a credit card you possess. A BankingSense.com blog post demonstrates that APRs can be lowered by negotiations with your credit card company, and introductory offers from other cards may be your ace-in-the-hole for negotiating a lower rate. A 2002 study found that 56 percent of credit card users who requested a lower APR were granted their requests, many by as much as a six percent reduction.

To pursue this option, gather all introductory offers you have received and then call your credit card company. Have in mind how much of a rate reduction you are seeking. If you speak to a representative and she refuses to help you, ask to speak with her supervisor and threaten to cancel your account. If you are still unsuccessful, wait and try again on another day.

4. Balance Transfer Arbitrage

Way back when savings accounts and some checking accounts paid respectable interest rates, some consumers would practice an arbitrage strategy where they would obtain an introductory rate on a credit card, extract a large amount of cash on the card, and then deposit the cash into an interest-bearing bank account. She would then withdraw the cash and pay of the card before the introductory period expired, pocketing the profits. However, because interest-bearing accounts currently have such a low rate of interest, this strategy no longer benefits the credit card holder.

The Negatives of Introductory Offers

You may find a few negatives with introductory offers, as well. According to another blog post here on BankingSense.com, lower APRs provided by introductory rates may encourage consumers to carry a balance on the card. In addition, cards with low APR introductory rates may charge other fees, such as an annual fee or a usage fee. Be sure to consider all fees when determining the best credit card for you.

How You Can Cancel Amazon Prime without Paying a Fee

You’ve probably heard a lot about Amazon Prime. Maybe you’ve already signed up for a trial membership in Prime. If you decide it’s not for you, it’s pretty easy to cancel without having to pay the fee. But since Prime can quickly pay for itself, it makes sense to explore the benefits before you cancel.

Amazon Prime bundles an array of services to shoppers and users. Online shopping on Amazon is quite popular, and Amazon Prime offers free two-day shipping, grocery delivery, free/rent/purchase video streaming, photo services, and other benefits. Amazon Prime Student is a cost-effective service that helps students buy textbooks and other media at competitive prices.

Free two-day shipping can pay for the cost of Amazon Prime in a relatively short time frame for many users. Standard shipping can require four or five days, especially when the seller sends books or other materials media mail or parcel post. Most items, but not all, are eligible for free Amazon Prime two-day service, and residents of Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico do not receive two-day shipping. Expedited or overnight shipping is available at preferred rates. Recently, Amazon Prime introduced “add-on” purchases of less than $25 that ship for free.

Video Streaming
Prime Instant Video is popular with users of all ages because, after purchasing Amazon Prime, you can access a large number movies and TV shows for free. If you aren’t an Amazon Prime user, watching these videos requires payment.

Current movies are frequently available with Amazon Prime Instant Video. Other recently released movies are available for rent for 24 hours or longer or purchase. Purchased movies remain in the user’s Amazon Video Library.

Use Amazon Instant Video on the Amazon website, or on a PC, Apple/Mac, Android smartphones and tablets (at v.4.0 or better), iOS phones and devices, or use Amazon Fire TV Stick to watch video streaming on your tv. If you have a gaming console or smart TV, access videos using the Amazon Prime app.

Prime Music
Amazon Prime users in the U.S. and Puerto Rico also have access to more than one million songs. It’s also possible to access advertisement-free playlists or make your own custom and/or Amazon-mixed playlists. Search for the musical artists you’re looking for to listen to just one song or an entire album. Access Prime Music on the devices mentioned above, and look for new titles that are constantly added to the site.

Cloud Storage
Prime Photos helps users with large photo libraries to store and secure them. Unlimited cloud storage for photos or personal videos is available with Cloud Drive for Amazon Prime members. Access Prime Photos through the Amazon site or use any mobile or PC device. If you cancel Amazon Prime at any point in the future, your cloud storage is limited to the amount offered to all free Amazon account users.

Prime Pantry
Prime Pantry is a great resource for busy shoppers. Although you probably won’t find lots of fresh foods offered on Prime, you can order packaged snacks, baby products, beverages as well as household detergents and cleaning items, pet care products, nutrition and wellness, or personal care goods online. Ship your Prime Pantry order for a small flat rate or get free shipping during promotional periods.

How to Cancel the Amazon Prime Free Trial
Amazon Prime’s one month free trial makes it easy to evaluate your potential annual savings. Sign up for Amazon Prime online. If you decide that Amazon Prime doesn’t offer enough value to justify the yearly fee and you don’t want to continue Amazon Prime, cancel it on or around the end of your free trial period.

If you want to make sure that Amazon doesn’t bill for Prime, contact Amazon Customer Service. Tell the Amazon representative you don’t want to continue with Prime. If you’ve been charged already, ask for Amazon for reverse the charge. The assisting representative will send an email after your conversation. Keep the email if you don’t see the Amazon Prime charges reversed right away.

Amazon Prime is a useful resource for millions of Americans. The free trial period can help you decide if the money to join Amazon Prime is worth it for you. Canceling Amazon Prime is a simple and no-hassle experience

The Banking Industry’s Best Savings Accounts

As the old adage goes, a penny saved is a penny earned. However, choosing the best way to save money can often be a confusing and overwhelming process. To help you in this process, most banks offer several different savings vehicles. It’s vital for you to understand each savings vehicle and review the pros and cons of each. The following information explains a few of the most common types of savings accounts available in today’s banking industry.

Typical Savings Account
As the most common savings account, a passbook or regular savings account requires you to typically go into the bank or sign up online. While savings accounts are similar to checking accounts, savings accounts do not allow check writing privileges and do pay interest. These accounts are simple to setup and easy to maintain. In most instances, the savings account will be linked to the checking account, which allows you to easily move money between the two. One of the key benefits of this type of account is it helps you to avoid overdraft charges in your checking account. However, the biggest disadvantage to this account is pays a significantly low interest rate.

Online Savings Account
While regular savings accounts allow you to go into the bank and make transactions, online savings accounts require you to deal with it exclusively online. Since the institution has fewer overhead costs, online savings accounts typically will pay a higher rate of interest. However, these accounts may take longer for you to access your funds. Most online savings accounts do not have minimum daily balance requirements, minimum opening deposit amounts, or monthly maintenance fees.

Money Market Deposit Accounts
If you have a larger amount and are looking to earn a higher rate of interest, Money Market Deposit Accounts (MMDA) may be the way to go. These financial savings instruments offer short maturities and high liquidity. Although money market investment accounts do have risk, MMDAs are essentially risk-free because they are backed by the FDIC. These accounts generally have monthly fees and require higher minimum balance requirements, which can range anywhere from $500 to $2500. While you may be able to withdraw money from the account with check-writing privileges, there are federally imposed limits on the number of withdrawals you can make each month.

Certificates of Deposits
Certificates of deposits (CD) are a savings vehicle that entitles you to receive interest when the instrument matures. Since CDs are bank products, your funds are insured by the FDIC. Most CDs with have either a fixed or variable interest rate, a set maturity date, and can be issued in almost any amount. CD terms can range from one month up to five years. In most instances, your interest rate will be based on the term of the instrument, and you will generally receive higher interest rates on longer terms. In general, CDs pay higher interest rates than other savings vehicles. In exchange for this higher rate, there are restrictions, such as penalties for withdrawing your money before the maturity date.

Automatic Savings Plan
As an excellent way to establish saving habits, most banks offer automatic savings plans. With these types of plans, you must choose a certain dollar amount you want to have withdrawn from your checking account. This amount will be withdraw one time a month and transferred to your savings account. Automatic savings accounts are designed to help you stick to your budget, while saving money on a regular basis. In the event you notice the amount is too high, you can always lower the amount. One of the top benefits of an automatic savings account is that you will not have to remember to save money because it will be automatically done for you.

Beginner Travelers: How to Score Cheap Hotel Rooms

Traveling to new places is great fun, and it’s even better when your hotel room doesn’t cost a fortune. The smartest travelers know there are deals out there for saving on hotels. The trick to scoring a cheap hotel rate is to use the Internet and well-known travel deals sites to research and compare prices. These tips might help you find some of the best rates and keep a little bit of spending money in your wallet.

Travel Dates/Locations

Flexibility is the key to saving on hotels and airfares when traveling. Typically, hotels charge the highest rates during busy seasons. Right after the tourist season, many hotels almost empty out, and they are anxious to fill empty rooms. So, if you can travel right before or after the busy season, you’ll usually score lower hotel rates.

Hotels located the closest to major tourist destinations always charge the highest rates. People choose these hotels because of location and convenience. However, you can get cheaper hotel rates by staying at a hotel just a little further away from your true destination.

For example, if your destination is Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, you could probably get much better rates staying in a hotel in Santa Ana or Fullerton. Granted, you’ll spend a little more on gas, but it won’t cost as much as paying top dollar for expensive tourist hotels.

Searching Online Websites

After narrowing down your travel dates and desired destination, you should take advantage of several online websites to search for cheap hotels.

Priceline.com

Priceline is a website that allows you to search for car rentals, flights and hotels by stating the price you’re willing to pay. In some instances, you may save as much as 60 percent when looking for hotels. You should be aware that you may have to be somewhat flexible about your travel dates, but this site could provide great savings.

Expedia.com

Expedia is another well-known website for discount travel arrangements. They offer vacation packages, flights and inexpensive rates on hotels. They even have a guarantee. If you find a cheaper rate within one day after booking through their services, you’ll get the difference refunded.

StudentUniverse.com

StudentUniverse offers discounts on a variety of travel plans for young people under 25, university administrators, professors and students. If you meet any of these requirements, it may be worth visiting their website.

Groupon.com

Most people think Groupon mainly deals with discount tickets to events and activities. However, they also have travel plan discounts, and you just might find a good deal for a clean and inexpensive hotel.

Hotwire.com

Hotwire is well known for not only good hotel prices but also entire travel packages. Booking your hotel and airfare all in one package is a great way to save, and it makes vacation planning so much easier.

Bookingbuddy.com

Use BookingBuddy to compare hotel quotes you’ve already received to many other websites. This is a wonderful way to find out if you really are getting the very best deal.

Finding Hidden Discounts

If you’re a member of a professional group, you should check with them to see if they offer member discounts on hotels. Frequently places like AAA, AARP or the American Medical Association offer special discount rates to their members.

Booking Cheaper Hotels

Consider booking hotels that don’t come with all the fancy amenities like spas, workout rooms and swimming pools. If you really don’t need Internet access, or a free breakfast, look for a basic hotel that offers a clean room at reasonable prices.

Negotiating

For one reason or another, most people never think to haggle over the price of a hotel room. However, in most instances, if the hotel has a large number of empty rooms, the manager would more than likely be glad to offer a substantial discount just to book the room. All you have to do is ask.

It really is possible to save on hotel rates if you book in advance, avoid the busy seasons and search for the best rates using travel websites. However, there are also sites that specialize in last-minute travel deals — so it’s never too late to get away from it all!

Five Ways to Protect Your Balance Transfer

Credit cards have become an integral aspect of American finance, and they are an excellent way for you to save money through rewards and discounts on things that you buy on an everyday basis. But you should also be aware that a high interest rate can quickly consume any potential savings that you stand to gain. If you find yourself in a position where you feel like you can benefit from a lower interest rate, then a balance transfer may be the solution to your problem. When you do a balance transfer, a new lender pays off your old debt, preferably for a lower interest rate. Keep in mind, however, that you still need to be mindful of exactly what you’re getting yourself into, so here are five ways to protect yourself in the event of a balance transfer:

Don’t Fall for the Bait and Switch

Predatory lenders are known to send out offers that claim you are pre-approved for a certain amount, but when you actually fill out the application, you find that you are eligible for a lesser amount. This can leave you with the same debt you were in before if you intend to transfer all your previous balances to this card. Additionally, this can cause you increase your credit limit, which will significantly and immediately impact your credit score. If you are about to make a major purchase, like a house or a car, you definitely need to consider using another lender.

Compare Offers

Although this seems like common sense, surprisingly, many people don’t use this simple piece of advice. So if you think you’re getting a low enough interest rate from the first envelope you open, keep in mind that doing a little comparison shopping can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. One of the most efficient ways to see if you’re getting the best deal is to check out some credit card comparison sites.

Calculate the Cost and Fees

You aren’t the only one who benefits from transferring your credit card balances. Credit card companies normally charge a fee for this service. A lender can charge anywhere from three to five percent of the total amount you are transferring. The fee that you pay to transfer your balance may make it disadvantageous for you to transfer your balance at all because of the debt you have accrued. You should also consider the annual fee. Coughing up an extra 100 dollars a year may not be worth it in the long run.

Don’t Close Your Old Accounts Immediately

Once you have transferred your balance form one card to another it’s tempting to throw that old card away and close the account, but this can actually work against you. Your FICO score is partially determined by the length you keep your credit lines open. Furthermore, all past and present credit lines are used to determine the average age of your credit history, so when you close an older account it ages your history down, and the algorithm interprets that negatively.

Consider Uncapped Balance Transfer Fees

In the past, there was a cap on the amount of balance transfer fees. For instance, there used to be a limit of 50 to 75 dollars on any amount of debt that was transferred. So even though the standard rate was three percent, anything over 75 dollars was capped, but in 2008, thing changed. In 2008, many credit card issuers eliminated those caps, and some even increased balance transfer fees. That means that you need to do your due diligence to make sure that the balance transfer fees don’t wipe out any potential savings.

The Less Known Advantages of Good Credit

Although credit scores were initially intended as a criteria for determining creditworthiness, your credit score affects much of your daily life. Most people know that having a good credit score is important when buying a house or a car. Your interest rate, incentives available, and overall cost will be much lower with a good credit score than with a lesser one. However, many people may not know that a good credit score can affect much more than their interest rates.

Insurance Rates
Most insurance companies will run a credit check when you apply for insurance with them, whether you’re applying for auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, life insurance, or any other type. Consumers with a good rating pay significantly lower insurance rates, sometimes up to several hundred dollars per year, than consumers with a lesser credit score, according to Consumer Reports.

Vehicle Rental Rates
If you need to rent a vehicle, the rental agency will run a credit check. The higher your credit rating, the lower the deposit, if any, that will be required. Particularly for consumers who pay a deposit with cash or a debit card, a lower credit score will increase the amount of the deposit required.

Employment
Many employers now routinely run a credit check on their prospective employees, particularly if the position being applied for is in the finance or accounting department. Although we are reminded daily that wealth does not ensure honesty, employers seem to feel that a high credit score indicates a higher degree of financial integrity in an employee.

Rental Housing and Utilities
If you rent rather than own, your credit score may determine whether a prospective landlord will rent to you or not. Understandably, the landlord wants a tenant that will pay his or her bills timely. However, with the proliferation of identity theft, a poor credit score does not guarantee that a prospective tenant will not pay his or her rent. However, maintaining a good credit score will increase your chances of obtaining the rental unit that you want.

When you need to establish utility service, the utility company will run a credit check. A lesser score may cause your deposit to increase substantially or require that you have a co-signer. A high credit score can eliminate the need for a deposit. Due to the high incidence of lesser scores, many utility companies are now offering prepaid options that eliminate the need for a deposit.

Mobile Devices and Plans
When you need a new mobile phone, tablet, or the like, the provider will run a credit check on you. A good credit score can increase the incentives available to you and ensure that you get the best financing terms on your mobile device. A lesser score will increase the amount of down payment required or may prohibit you from obtaining financing.

Professional Licenses
Many entities that govern professional licensure will run a credit check on their applicants. This can apply to any profession, whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, tax preparer, or the like. A good credit score may be a prerequisite to obtaining your professional license.

Government Scrutiny
Although a credit score has little to do with one’s political beliefs, agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investment, or FBI, are now able to run credit checks on individuals, even if there is little evidence that the individual has a terrorist affiliation. This is one result of the increased security measures taken since 9/11. Since lower credit scores are the result of negative input on your credit report, this can cause you to become the object of government scrutiny.

Your Love Life
In more extreme cases, potential mates are checking credit scores to determine if they want to make a lifelong commitment to someone. In a survey conducted recently, 20 percent of men indicated they wouldn’t marry a person with a bad credit rating and 30 percent of women responded similarly.

Becoming an Entrepreneur
If your intent is to become self-employed, your options are much greater with a good credit score than with a poor one. Since most startups operate with limited finances, entrepreneurs are forced to use their own credit to get the business established. With a poor credit score, this most likely isn’t going to happen.

Whatever the original intent of the credit scoring process, it has become a tool that can either positively or negatively impact your life. If your score needs improving, you can learn quick ways to boost your credit score and the top 5 credit cards to help raise your credit score.

The Must-Know Tax Exemptions of 2015

Almost all taxpayers are entitled to some type of tax exemption. For example, individual filers can generally claim one personal tax exemption while adults with children who live with them can take additional exemptions. Below introduces the must-know tax exemptions of 2015.

Standard Deductions and Personal Exemptions
First, there are changes to standard deductions. The standard deduction for single and married people filing separate returns will rise to 6,300 dollars. The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly will increase to 12,600 dollars. The standard deduction will be slightly raised for heads of household, going from 9,100 to 9,250 dollars. Second, the personal exemption for singles is being raised by 50 dollars, which puts it at an even 4,000 dollars. However, the personal exemption begins to be reduced at individual income levels of 258,250 dollars, or 309,900 dollars for married couples filing jointly. The personal exemption disappears at 380,750 dollars for singles, 432,400 dollars for married couples filing jointly. Finally, the 2015 limitation for claimed itemized deductions for individual returns will start with incomes of 258,250 dollars and for married couples filing jointly it will start at 309,900 dollars.

Additional Tax Exemptions
In 2015, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption amount will be raised from 52,800 dollars to 53,600 dollars. The AMT exemption for married couples filing jointly will be raised from 82,100 dollars to 83,400 dollars. On the other hand, the maximum Earned Income Credit amount for taxpayers filing jointly with three or more children will be raised 99 dollars, going from 6,143 dollars to 6,242 dollars. The tax exemption for estates of decedents who die will drastically change by 90,000 dollars and rise from 5,340,000 to 5,430,000 dollars. The foreign earned income exclusion will be raised by 1,600 dollars, going from 99,200 dollars to 100,800 dollars. While the annual gift exclusion remains unchanged at 14,000 dollars, the official gift exclusion for gifts to non-citizen spouses will be raised 2,000 dollars up to a total of up to 147,000 dollars.

2015 Tax Exemptions for Businesses
There are major tax exemption changes for businesses because of health care reform. For example, the yearly financial limit on employee contributions to Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA) will increase by 50 dollars up to 2,550 dollars. Additionally, the small business health care tax credit has various changes for companies. For instance, the maximum credit will be phased out for employers whose total number of full-time employees is at least 10 people. The maximum credit will also be phased out for these employers whose average yearly wages exceed 25,800 dollars per employee. Companies with fewer than 25 full-time employees may qualify for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. However, the company must also provide at least half of the health insurance premium costs for their employees and offer coverage through the SHOP Marketplace. Additional, the average salary cannot exceed 50,000 dollars.

Tax Exemption Facts
There are always basic exemption and dependent facts. For example, The IRS’ web-based service is an excellent way to automatically determine the number of exemptions available. Additionally e-file options include using a CPA, commercial software or the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Keep in mind that taxpayers can only claim a spouse on a separate return if that person has no gross income, will not file a tax return and will not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer. Keep in mind that a dependent can either be a child or a qualifying relative. However, a relative must live with the taxpayer all year round and be directly related, such as a sibling, parent, grandparent or in-law. Most importantly, new health care regulations require that taxpayers report basic health insurance information about themselves and their family members. Specifically, taxpayers must be enrolled in a qualified health insurance plan or have an official exemption.

In the end, individuals and companies should visit the official IRS website in order to review updated revenue bracket tables, income thresholds and associated information.

Why an American Express Gold Card is a Great Investment

The American Express Gold Card is becoming more popular as consumers realize the long-term benefits. Below explains why the Gold Card is such a great investment for cardholders.

Exclusive Rewards
According to the Ameriprise website, the American Express Gold Card offers excellent benefits. First, the membership rewards program provides one point per every dollar spent. However, card owners can select how to use their points based on their charges. That is, card owners can redeem their points for categories, such as dining or retail, based on their own preference. Every 10,000 dollars spent will result in an extra 2,500 reward points. However, this is capped at 20,000 dollars. Cardholders can directly use their points in a variety of ways. For example, they can apply it to their credit, shop online, purchase gift cards and use it for travel expenses.

Still, the best possible value is available when cardholders transfer their points to hotel and airline loyalty programs. To illustrate, the cardholder can possibly earn up a tenth of a penny per membership point. However, the conversion rate is different for each loyalty program. Card owners can easily transfer points to over 20 major hotel and airline frequent traveler programs. Finally, the card also comes with exclusive benefits, such as roadside assistance and car rental loss and damage insurance.

Charge Card vs. Credit Card
Most consumers aren’t aware that the American Express Gold Card is in fact a charge card and not a credit card. This is an important point because a failure to understand this may cause serious financial problems down the road. That is, a charge card does not allow the account owner to carry a balance at the end of the month. Therefore, the card owner is expected to pay off all charges at the end of every billing cycle. If the account owner fails to pay off their balance, there are stiff penalties. For example, the American Express Gold late fees are higher than popular credit cards when the person fails to pay off their balances two bill cycles in a row. The typical late fee is 36 percent, which is higher than the average 19 percent for regular credit cards.

A unique feature of the charge card is that there is no preset spending limit. Traditional credit cards have capped credit spending amounts. However, the American Express Gold card automatically sets a monthly credit limited based on their spending trends and payment history. This offers excellent purchasing flexibility over a traditional credit card. Cardholders who lack self-control and struggle to pay off their bills may not benefit from this feature.

Travel Rewards
The American Express Gold Card offers excellent travel rewards. For example, the so-called Hotel Collection reward will give cardholders a 75 dollar hotel credit when they stay for two consecutive nights in a row at a participating hotel. However, the hotel must be booked online through the American Express travel platform. Additionally, cardholders will receive additional money back when they meet other specific criteria. Keep in mind that this unique credit is not limited to a single hotel chain and it can be applied on multiple stays through the year. Therefore, it is one of the travel benefits available through a charge card.

On the other hand, the American Express Gold Card also offers additional bonus points for travel charges. First, whenever the cardholder book flights and hotels through the online Amextravel portal, they will receive two points per every dollar spent. Thus, they can apply these points towards their hotel credit. Finally, cardholders also receive two points per every dollar spent whenever they use the popular Uber service. This is especially beneficial for individuals and business people who often travel.

To wrap up, financially savvy individuals will enjoy the various benefits that come with the American Express Gold Card, which offers exclusive travel rewards and a custom membership point system.

Home Insurance 101: Getting the Best Price

Home insurance is an important financial product, because it protects you from the risks of damage to your house. There are many ways that a house can suffer damage, such as through a storm, flood, or fire, but paying for repairs out of pocket would be ruinous. Homeowner’s insurance is a necessity to purchase a home in some jurisdictions, and even when it is not, then the risk of an expensive disaster is simply too great to do without insurance. That does not mean you need to spend a lot of money on your premiums, though. In this post, we will talk about some useful tips to help you get a good deal on your home insurance.

First of all, consider bundling. Most home insurance companies also offer other kinds of insurance as well. If you buy auto and life insurance from your home insurance provider, you can get a big discount. In fact, this is one of the largest discounts available. You might be able to find individual deals that are better for each policy, but bundling will save you the most money for all three policies combined. Unless you have a strong reason for wanting to get all forms of insurance from different companies, you should probably bundle them together, because you can save a lot of money that way.

You can also get incentives for preparing your home in various ways. This differs by state, but in many areas you can get a discount for doing things like getting a wind-resistant roof or shatter-proof windows. By making your home more resistant to disasters, you are reducing the damage that might occur from such a disaster and therefore reducing the potential liability of your insurance carrier, saving them money. As a result, many companies provide a discount on your premium if you invest in the right precautions, and might even cover the cost of the improvements as well. Check with your carrier to see if they have any potential incentives that you might be able to use. There could even be some that you already have installed, so if the company verifies that you have them, you can get credit for the discount without needing to make any changes.

Next, you should know how to negotiate and compare rates. Never take the first offer when it comes to insurance. Get quotes from several different companies and see if you can get them to lower their price. Ask for any kind of first-time buyer discounts or good credit discounts they might be able to apply to your account. You never know what you can find just by asking, and you might be pleasantly surprised. All you have to do is go to the company that quotes you at the lowest rate and ask them for more discounts. They aren’t going to turn you down just because you asked.

One of the best things to do is call your state’s insurance department. Every state government regulates insurance, so they all have a department or office dedicated to it. Get in touch with them and ask about discounts that are offered in your area. They can tell you about discounts because they regulate the price of homeowner’s insurance and also govern the incentive programs mentioned above.

Even though you naturally want to save money on your homeowner’s insurance, do take the time to make sure you have all the coverage you need. You might consider certain add-ons to your policy to cover risks specific to your area.

The bottom line is that home insurance is a necessity, but you can save yourself a lot of money without sacrificing coverage by shopping around and doing your due diligence. It just takes a few hours of research to save yourself a significant amount of money, and the longer you hold your policy, the more you save. The benefits of getting cheaper home insurance mean you can out that money towards anything else you want.

Term Life Insurance: Important Facts to Know

While death is unavoidable, the age when you will pass away cannot be accurately predicted. Your death could result in financial hardship for loved ones who are dependent on you for financial support as well as for those who are dependent on you for their care and more. Because of the uncertainty of when death will occur, it is important to take action to safeguard your loved ones from a financial standpoint. Purchasing life insurance is one of the more common steps that individuals will take to prepare for the end of life and to protect their loved ones’ financial well-being after they have passed on. Term life insurance is a popular type of coverage to consider, and there are a few important facts to remember about this type of coverage as you shop around and set up a new policy that is right for you.

What Is Term Life Insurance?
Term life insurance and whole life insurance are the two most popular insurance options available. Whole life is coverage that will never expire, and it will remain in place as long as the premium continues to be paid on it. Term life, on the other hand, will expire at a specific date. The death benefits will remain in force throughout the term, but they will cease when the term expires. While term life will expire, it is a popular option because it is significant more affordable than whole life insurance.

The Typical Term Length
There are multiple term lengths that are commonly associated with term life insurance. The most common options are 10, 20 and 30 year terms, but there are some variations outside of this. Generally, the longer the term length, the more expensive the insurance premium. However, because life insurance premium rates can increase as you get older, many may benefit by purchasing a longer term policy earlier in life rather than planning to purchase consecutive 10 or 20 year policies.

The Amount of Coverage Needed
When you purchase a term life insurance policy, you will need to decide the term length as well as the coverage amount. The coverage amount generally can be as high or as low as you desire, but there are some limitations for this. The life insurance underwriter as well as your representative can provide you with their guidelines. Generally, the coverage can be used to pay funeral and burial costs as well as final medical expenses. Outstanding debts, such as credit cards, a car loan or a home mortgage can also be paid off with the death benefits. This can reduce the cost of living that loved ones will have after your passing. Death benefits can also supplement lost income and pay for major life events, such as a child’s college education or wedding. An agent may help you to determine the amount of coverage that you need.

The Ability to Purchase Multiple Policies
It is important to note that different policies can be purchased for different reasons. For example, death benefits for funeral costs will be needed regardless of the stage of life you are in when you pass away. A home mortgage may be paid off in 20 or 30 years, so a life insurance policy can be purchased to pay for this expense. In addition, if you have older kids, they may be out of the house and no longer financially dependent on you in 10 years, so you may purchase another policy that would be related to their financial care and well-being and that has a shorter term. Making a list of coverage needs and time periods when the coverage is needed can be beneficial.

Term life insurance can also be purchased in combination with whole life insurance. This can enable you to take advantage of the benefits of both while purchasing life insurance coverage that most closely meets all of your needs in an affordable way.

5 Ways to Winterize Your Home

5 Ways to Winterize Your Home
Winterizing your home is not just about improving aesthetic appeal or even comfort. Other even more important benefits include increased home safety and lower electricity bills throughout the cold winter months. Whether you do just one or all five things on this list, you will realize a savings in your energy bill this winter. So read on to learn five easy ways to winterize your home before the temperatures drop.

Tip #1: Stop air leaks and drafts wherever you find them.
From windows that don’t seal to drafty cracks to door-to-floor gaps, your first task is to stop the warm air from seeping out of your house into the great outdoors. An easy way to test for air leaks is to stand on one side of a window or door holding a burning candle. Have someone else stand on the other side holding a blow dryer. If the blow dryer burns out the candle, you have just found a draft that needs sealing.

Here are some easy ways to accomplish this:

– Use caulk to seal little cracks, gaps and holes in and around doors and windows.
– Use a “draft snake” (or even just a rolled towel) to stop warm air from escaping in the gap left between a closed door and the floorboards.
– Use big-bubble bubble wrap to seal up old windows.
– Install storm doors and windows to improve heat retention up to 45 percent (and use the tax credits the IRS provides to offset the cost if you are buying them for the first time).

Tip #2: Reverse your ceiling fans to push the warm air down.
Many homeowners don’t realize that ceiling fans were designed to facilitate air circulation in both summer and winter. There is a little switch on the central fan (above the light fixture) that should be reversed in winter. This will push the warm air that rises up towards the ceiling back into the center of the space to warm the whole room.

Tip #3: Invest in a programmable thermostat (or use the one you already have).
Programming your thermostat can have a huge impact on your monthly energy bill – even just a change of 1-2 degrees can help you save money. Also, you can use a programmable thermostat to avoid warming an empty house while you are away.

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can find a cheap one at any home supplies store. Most are easy to install as a DIY project, or you can ask your HVAC manufacturer if there is a specific thermostat that pairs well with your system.

A tip: Save money at night by turning your thermostat down and piling on the blankets (and some warm flannel jammies) instead.

Tip #4: Wrap your pipes and lower your water heater temperature.
These two tactics work together to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use. By wrapping your pipes, you also guard against pipes bursting in extreme cold temperatures.

Wrapping your pipes also helps raise water temperatures so you don’t need to work your water heater as hard. When setting your water heater temperature, aim for around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tip #5: Replace your furnace’s air filter as needed throughout the cold season.
Many furnaces today also take reusable air filters, which can be washed and reused repeatedly. But whether you choose to use reusable or disposable air filters, you need to make sure you change them regularly. A clean air filter increases energy efficiency, facilitates better air flow and – most importantly – guards against the risk of fire.

By taking a bit of time to winterize your home following these five tips, you can weather the cold winter months knowing you and your family will be warm and safe inside your home. Your wallet will also thank you for the lower energy bills!
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