100 Birthday Freebies ~~ Celebrate WIth Free Stuff in 2021!

Hooray! It’s your birthday!

The last thing you should do is pay for stuff. So we’ve put together a list of 100 places where you can get birthday freebies, updated for 2021.

Most of these places require you to sign up for their email list or join their rewards club at least seven days before your birthday.

So get busy now and enjoy the free birthday stuff as it rolls in on your big day.

100 Places to Get Birthday Freebies

These restaurants and retailers will provide you with free treats for your birthday. Be sure to sign up in advance.

A&W All American Food

Get a free root beer float on your birthday by joining the Mug Club.

ABC Liquor

Sign up for ABC Liquor Access to get a “birthday gift.”

AMC Theatres

Become an AMC Stubs Insider to get a free large popcorn during your birthday month. If you’re a Premiere or A-List member, you’ll also get a free large fountain drink.

Anthropologie

As a member of the Anthro Loyalty program, you will get a “special treat to celebrate your birthday.”

Applebee’s

Sign up for the email club, and get $5 off when you spend at least $25. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Arby’s

Sign up for Arby’s emails and get a free milkshake and curly fries on your birthday when you buy any sandwich. You’ll also get a free small fries and small soft drink when you sign up.

Au Bon Pain

Join the Eclub, and get a free coffee and pastry on your birthday. You’ll also get a travel mug and daily discounts on coffee just for signing up.

Auntie Anne’s

Download the Pretzel Perks app, and get a free pretzel on your birthday.

Aveda

You need to spend $10 to join Aveda’s loyalty rewards program, but you’ll receive a birthday gift valued at $23, as well as double points for your next Aveda purchase.

Baja Fresh

Sign up for Club Baja to get a “special offer” on your birthday.

bareMinerals

Sign up for the Friends and Benefits loyalty program to get “birthday gifts.”

Baskin Robbins

Create an account, join the Birthday Club, and get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday.

Banana Republic

When you sign up to receive Banana Republic’s emails, you can opt to also get a “birthday gift.”

bd’s Mongolian Grill

Get a free meal on your birthday when you join the bd’s Rewards eClub, plus get a $5 coupon just for signing up.

Benihana’s

Register for the Chef’s Table, and you’ll get a $30 birthday certificate.

Best Buy

My Best Buy members get a “birthday gift.”

Big Boy

Joining the I Love Big Boy email club gets you a free meal on your birthday.

BJ’s Brewhouse

Join Premier Rewards Plus and get a free Pizookie for your birthday. What’s that? It’s a big, warm cookie smothered in ice cream… yum. What’s even better is you don’t have to wait for your birthday – you’ll also get a free Pizookie just for signing up.

Black Angus Steakhouse

Join the Prime Club to get a free steak dinner on your first birthday as a member.

Bojangles’

Get a free Bo-Berry Biscuit with a purchase on your birthday as a member of the Bojangles’ eClub.

Bruegger’s Bagels

Members of the Bruegger’s Bagels eClub will enjoy a “free treat” on their birthday, as well as a free bagel and cream cheese just for signing up.

Buca di Beppo

You’ll receive a free pasta after signing up, as well as a $20 birthday gift for joining the eClub.

The sign of Buffalo Wild Wings is photographed.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Sign up for Blazin’ Rewards to get free birthday wings during your birth month.

Carvel

Join Fudgie Fanatics to receive a free treat for your birthday. You can get a small soft serve birthday cone, take $2 off any cake (except for a small square) or take $3 off any sheet cake.

Chevys Fresh Mex

Members of the eClub get a free entree on their birthday, as well as a free appetizer for signing up.

Chick-fil-A

Join Chick-fil-A One to get a “birthday reward.”

Chili’s

Get a free dessert for your birthday when you join My Chili’s Rewards Club, plus get free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage with every visit!

Chipotle

Join the Chipotle rewards program to get free chips and guacamole on your birthday when you make a purchase of $5 or more. When you sign up and make your first purchase, you’ll also get free chips and a choice of guacamole, queso blanco or salsa.

Cinnabon

Subscribe to Club Cinnabon to get a free iced coffee on your birthday and a free order of BonBites for signing up.

Cold Stone Creamery

Get a BOGO coupon for your birthday by signing up for the My Cold Stone Club. You’ll also get a BOGO coupon just for signing up!

Columbia

Members of the Greater Rewards program get a “birthday gift” in addition to a welcome gift from the sportswear and outdoor gear retailer.

Container Store

Join the POP! (Perfectly Organized Perks) program to get a birthday gift.

Culver’s

Enjoy a free sundae on your birthday when you sign up for MyCulver’s. You’ll also get a BOGO value basket when you sign up.

The exterior of a CVS is photographed in Florida.

CVS Pharmacy

As a member of the ExtraCare Beauty Club, you’ll get “birthday gifts with beauty surprises,” as well as 10% off for joining.

Del Taco

If you’re a Raving Fan eClub member, you can enjoy a regular-size premium shake for your birthday, plus you’ll get two free grilled chicken tacos when you sign up.

Denny’s

Sign up for Denny’s Rewards program online or via the mobile app. You’ll get 20% off your next visit, plus a free stack of buttermilk pancakes on your birthday when you order online at Dennys.com.

Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW)

Join the free DSW VIP Club to get a $5 birthday reward. You’ll also get $5 on your birthday if you spend $200 annually as a VIP Gold member, and you’ll get $10 if you spend $500 annually as a VIP Elite member.

Dippin’ Dots

Get free Dippin’ Dots for your birthday when you join the Dot Crazy! Email Club.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Get a free beverage on your birthday by signing up for the DD Perks Rewards Program.

Edible Arrangements

Join Edible Rewards and receive a free 12-count chocolate dipped fruit box (valued at $29.99) during your birthday month. You’ll also get a $5 coupon for signing up (valid for 30 days).

Einstein Bros. Bagels

Get a free egg sandwich with a purchase on your birthday when you join the Shmear Society — not totally free, but hey, you’ll need something to help wash that sandwich down. You’ll have 14 days to claim your reward.

Famous Dave’s

Join the Famous Nation and get a free dessert with a value of up to $9.00 for your birthday.

Famous Footwear

Famously You Rewards members get a $5 birthday cash reward.

Firehouse Subs

Sign up for Firehouse Rewards for a free medium sub on your birthday or in the six days that follow it.

First Watch

Get a BOGO breakfast, brunch or lunch for your birthday as a member of the Sun EClub.

Friendly’s

When you become a BFF Club member, you’ll receive a free birthday sundae.

Godiva

As a member of the Godiva Rewards Club, you’ll get a free birthday chocolate offer every year.

Habit Burger Grill

Be sure to join Habit Burger Grill’s CharClub to enjoy a free Charburger on your birthday.

Harkins Theatres

Sign up for My Harkins Rewards and receive a $5 birthday coupon to use at the concessions.

Hard Rock

Sign up for Hard Rock Rewards to get an “annual birthday offer” from the cafe and shops.

Hooters

Get 10 free boneless birthday wings when you sign up for Hootclub. You’ll also get $5 off your first purchase of $25 or more when you sign up.

Houlihan’s Restaurant and Bar

Email club members get a free birthday entree, plus $10 off just for joining.

IHOP

Sign up for MyHop and get free pancakes on your birthday. You’ll also get free pancakes on the anniversary of your sign-up.

Challenge yourself to score as many birthday freebies as possible and make the celebration — and savings — last all month!

J. Crew Factory

When you sign up for Factory First, you’ll get an extra 20% off and free shipping on your birthday. You’ll also get an extra 15% off your first purchase after signing up.

JCPenney

Receive a birthday gift when you sign up for JCPenney Rewards. If you are not a JCPenney credit card member, you must have earned points within the last 21 months.

A woman smiles as she holds up a drink and a sub she got for free from Jersey Mike's Subs.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

Get a free birthday sub when you sign up for the email club.

Kendra Scott

Kendra Scott offers a 50% birthday discount on one fashion jewelry or color bar item. It also offers a 25% discount on fine jewelry, sterling silver jewelry or gold vermeil jewelry. You can also get 25% off a home goods item. Find out more information here.

Kohl’s

Members of the Kohl’s Rewards program get a “special birthday gift.”

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive a free Original Glazed Dozen. You’ll also get a free doughnut when you sign up.

Longhorn Steakhouse

As a member of the Longhorn Steakhouse’s eClub, you’ll get “special offers and coupons” on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer when you sign up.

Marie Callender’s

Join the eClub, and get $5 off the purchase of two entrees, plus two free slices of pie, the choice of a free “Marie’s Magnificent Six” or a free slice of pie with the purchase of an entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a special dine-in offer for signing up. The company also sends special offers for your wedding anniversary and allows you to add family members so they can get birthday rewards.

Moe’s Southwest Grill

Sign up for Rockin’ Rewards and get a coupon for a free birthday burrito, plus a free cup of queso just for signing up.

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Join the Nothing Bundt Cakes eClub and get a free Bundtlet on your birthday.

Old Navy

Opt into the Birthday Club when you subscribe to Old Navy’s emails to get a “free birthday gift.”

Olive Garden

Get a complimentary dessert on your birthday by signing up for the eClub. You’ll get a free dessert or appetizer when you sign up.

On the Border

Join Club Cantina and get free queso on your birthday, and just for signing up.

Pandora

Members of the Pandora Club get a 15% discount during their birthday month. This offer can only be used one time and is valid on regular-priced jewelry only.

Pei Wei

Sign up for My Wei Rewards and choose from these birthday freebies: crab wontons, traditional edamame, vegetable spring rolls or pork egg roll. The reward will automatically appear in your app seven days prior to your birthday.

Perkins

Members of the MyPerkins Club receive a free Magnificent Seven meal on their birthdays. The meal includes two eggs, any way you like, plus two smoked bacon strips and three buttermilk pancakes. Plus you’ll get a 20% off coupon for signing up. You will also be able to add your children ages 12 and under so they can get birthday rewards, too.

Pinkberry

Sign up for a Pinkcard or download the app, and receive a free yogurt on your birthday.

Pita Pit

Sign up for the Pita Pit Rewards Club and receive a free pita on your birthday.

Pizza Hut

Join the Hut Rewards program to get a “birthday reward.”

Planet Smoothie

Join the Planet Smoothie Club and receive a free smoothie for your birthday.

A person selects a movie from a red box.

Redbox

Sign up for Redbox Perks and receive a free birthday rental (it must be used within 60 days). You’ll also get a free one-night rental for signing up (that offer is valid for two weeks).

Red Lobster

Enjoy a “birthday surprise” when you sign up for the My Red Lobster Rewards program.

Red Robin

Register for the Red Robin Royalty Program, and get a free birthday burger.

Rita’s

Get a free Italian ice on your birthday when you download Rita’s Ice App.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Sign up for the email club, and get a free dessert on your birthday.

Ruby Tuesday

As a member of So Connected, you’ll get a choice of a free burger or a free garden bar entree on your birthday. You’ll also get a free appetizer for signing up.

Sephora

Beauty Insiders are eligible to choose a free makeup or skin care gift for their birthday.

Sbarro

Become a member of the Slice Society to get a birthday surprise. You’ll also get a free New York slice when you buy a beverage after signing up.

Sonny’s BBQ

Get a free Big Deal Combo meal on your big day by joining the ‘Q Crew, plus a $5 coupon just for joining.

Sprinkles

Receive a free cupcake (make that a baker’s dozen if you’re a Red Velvet tier member) for your birthday when you join Sprinkles Perks.

Iced coffees from Starbucks sit on a table outside.

Starbucks

Get a birthday beverage or food item as a member of Starbucks Rewards.

Subway

Sign up for the Subway MyWay Rewards program and the sandwich-making company will give you “something special” on your birthday.

Swagbucks

As a birthday reward, “you’ll receive a Swag Up for a 55 SB credit when you redeem your next gift card.”

Pro Tip

Be sure to check out our Swagbucks review for how to get the most out of Swagbucks.

TCBY

Sign up for TCBY emails, and receive your first 3 ounces free on your birthday.

Texas Roadhouse

Sign up for the email club and you’ll get a free appetizer or a sidekick of ribs on your birthday.

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The Melting Pot

Members of Club Fondue will get a “birthday voucher.”

The Spaghetti Warehouse

Join the Warehouse Club, and get a free meal on your birthday, plus a free appetizer with an entree purchase for becoming a member of the club.

Tijuana Flats

Become a Flathead and receive a free dessert for your birthday. You’ll also get a free Tijuana Trio when you sign up.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Download the Tropical Smoothie Cafe app to be eligible for a birthday reward. What you get depends on your loyalty tier, but it ranges from a $2 reward to a free menu item.

Ulta Beauty

As an Ultamate Rewards member, you’ll get an offer for extra bonus points on all purchases during your birthday month.

Uniqlo

Download the Uniqlo app to get a birthday coupon during your birthday month.

Uno Pizzeria & Grill

Join the Uno Insider’s Club, and receive a free dessert on your birthday, as well as a free appetizer with an entree purchase when you join.

Waffle House

Make sure you’re a member of the Waffle House Regulars Club to receive a free waffle on your birthday. You’ll also get free hashbrowns when you sign up.

Wienerschnitzel

Join the Wiener Lovers’ Club, and get a free coupon each year on your birthday, plus a free chili dog for joining.

World Market

Members of World Market Rewards get a “surprise offer” on their birthday, plus a 15% coupon for signing up.

Yogurt Mountain

Join the YOMO Club, and get free yogurt on your birthday.

Zaxby’s

Sign up for the Zax Club and get a free Big Zax Snak on your birthday, plus a free sandwich meal for signing up.

Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? Visit The Penny Hoarder Shop to see what freebies are available.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options

In the fall of 2017, Equifax experienced a massive data breach. Approximately 147 million people were victims of this data breach. Recently a federal court has purposed a class action settlement. If you are part of this data breach, you are able to file a claim today.

Was I Part of The Equifax Data Breach?

You can check if you are part of the Equifax data breach by going to Equifax’s data breach settlement website. You will need to enter your last name and last six digits of your social security number. After entering in this information on the settlement site, it will say if you were or were not a victim of the Equifax data breach.

Can I File a Claim?

You can file a claim if you if you are a victim of the Equifax data breach. To file a claim go to the Equifax data breach settlement site mentioned above to verify your eligibility. If you were a victim, the website will take you to a screen where you can file a claim.

What are My Claim Settlement Options?

Victims of the Equifax data breach, you can select from the following options:

  • A one-time cash payment up to $125 (if you already have credit monitoring)
  • Free credit monitoring service for 10 years. Which includes $1 million in identity theft insurance, identity restoration services (for seven years), and options to add more monitoring from Equifax.
  • Exclude yourself from the Equifax settlement

You can file a claim for eligible for reimbursement for time spent recovering from this incident if you were a victim of the Equifax data breach. You can also request compensation for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses if you spent or lost money recovering from this incident.

Which Settlement Option Should I Pick?

A one-time cash payment of $125 sounds great, right? But the actual cash payment amount is expected to be much less. Equifax set aside $31 million for cash payouts. This means that if only 248,000 people select a cash payment, they will get the full $125. Don’t forget, there were 147 million affected by the Equifax data breach.

If you do the math and estimate 10% of the affected victims select the one-time cash payment, that is approximately $2.10 per claim. If 1 million people select the one-time cash payment, that is about $31 per claim.

Credit monitoring cost about $9 to $40 per month depending on the company you select and the credit-monitoring package. Estimating $15 a month for 10 years, this equals $1,800 – far more than a one-time cash payment of $125.

There has been a lot of publicity about the Equifax settlement. They are expecting a high rate of people filing claims. The FTC is warning victims not to expect the full one-time cash payment of $125.

What do you do if you have already selected the one-time cash payment but want to change to the credit monitoring option? You can contact Equifax to change your settlement option.

Changing Your Equifax Settlement Option

The Credit.com Editorial Team called the Settlement Administrator to find out. Settlement members can email Info@EquifaxBreachSettlement.com to change their settlement option. In the email to Equifax include the following information: your claim number, full name, and details about changing the settlement option. You only need to do this if you want to change your claim option.

Whichever selection you decide, make sure to do it before time runs out. You have until January 22, 2020 to file.

 Preventing Identity Theft

It may seem impossible to prevent your personal data, but there are steps you can take to be proactive. Here are some ideas:

  • Be mindful of what your share on social media. A data thief can find out a lot of information about a person on social media. Limit your exposure by limiting what you share and whom you share it with. Don’t give away your address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name on social media. Are you already doing this? It’s a good idea to check your security settings every so often.
  • Take outgoing mail to the post office or a collection box. When you mail your mortgage payment and put the flag up on your mailbox, it is an open invitation to thieves to come check your mailbox to see what they can find. You can put a stop payment on a stolen check but the thief now has your bank account and routing number, which is a much bigger issue. Go for online bill payments or dropping off at a secure location.
  • Keep your Wi-Fi secure. Make sure your home Wi-Fi is password protected. If you are using public Wi-Fi, be careful what information you enter and view while on a public browser as others could see this information.
  • Opt out of prescreened credit card offers. You can opt out for five years or permanently. If you go with the permanent option, you have to mail something in. The five-year option allows you to complete the request online. To opt out, go to optoutprescreen.com. This will also eliminate waste since you will not receive offers you are not interested in. Next time you are in the market for a new credit card, visit Credit.com’s Credit Card Marketplace to review top offers instead. It is a much easier way to compare various credit card offers.
  • Freeze your credit if you have been a victim of identity theft. Freezing your credit report makes it harder for a data thief to open an account in your name. You can place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Final Thoughts

If you have been a victim of the Equifax data breach, or any other data breach, there are things you can to do to help prevent identity theft. Monitoring your credit report and credit scores are a very important part of preventing identity theft.

Make sure to review your personal data (bank accounts and other sensitive info), credit report and credit scores from the credit bureaus on a regular basis to help prevent identity theft. Consumers are entitled to a free credit every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also sign up with Credit.com to view your credit score. With Credit.com you get two credit scores every 14 days and a credit report card for free.

The post Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible?

The average couple has a number of topics to discuss on their to-do list before heading to the altar. The least romantic topics, if they even make the list at all, are probably concerning debt and the possibility of divorce. If you foresee a divorce in your future or are currently going through one, it’s safe to say that you have some burning questions about your finances. Perhaps you and your spouse acquired some debt during the course of your marriage and you’re now wondering who is going to be responsible for what. While it’s important to note that each situation is unique, there are some ground rules in the Divorced with Debt arena. In the below sections, we’ll address the usual ways in which debt is divided up between each spouse.

Community Property vs. Common Law Property Rules

If you’re trying to figure out what debts you will be responsible post-divorce, you will first need to know if you live in an equitable distribution state that follows common law or if you live in a community property state. When it comes to debt and the divorce process, most states follow common law for property, meaning that following a divorce, each ex-spouse will be held responsible for the debt that they took on. In a community property state, both spouses, considered to be the “community,” may both end up equally responsible for debt that incurred throughout the marriage, known as “community debt.” The following states are Community Property States:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Most of the time, the banks aren’t interested in how the courts decide to split up your debt. Even after a divorce, the original contract or credit card agreement will typically overrule a divorce decree. This means that if the original agreement was set up under your spouse’s name, the banks are going to expect the payments to be as such. As you can imagine, this could potentially cause problems with an ex-spouse who is being asked to pay off debt that is not under their name, or at least under a joint account.

To put it into perspective, let’s imagine that the court orders your ex-spouse to make payments on credit card debt under your name. If your ex neglects to make the payments on time, it’s going to have an effect on your credit report. The good news is that if this happens, you have a right to pursue legal action against your former spouse for not following court orders. However, it’s possible that by the time legal action is taken, your credit score may already be damaged.

Prenuptial agreements will affect these outcomes as well. Depending on yours and your spouse’s marital assets, the debt in question will vary. Here are the typical categories of debt that are affected during divorce proceedings:

  • Credit Card Debt
  • Mortgage Debt
  • Auto Loan Debt
  • Medical Debt

Credit Card Debt

It’s possible that you could be responsible for your former spouse’s credit card debt, but it’s not likely. If you have a joint account, then the outcomes may vary. Usually, marital debt is considered to be any debt that was created during the time of the marriage. So if you racked up credit card debt under a joint account, expect that both of you will be equally responsible for paying it off.

Mortgage Debt

If both spouses have their names on the mortgage, the easiest way of solving the mortgage debt is to sell the house and divide the earnings between both parties. It might be tempting to keep the home for a multitude of reasons, but at the end of the day, selling the property and splitting the money is usually the least complicated solution for everyone involved.

Once the house is on the market, it’s time to start communicating with your former spouse about who is going to be responsible for what amount. Come up with an agreement on who will pay which portion of the mortgage, so that neither parties’ credit score is negatively affected.

If selling the home and dividing the earnings isn’t a viable option for you and your ex, then one of you will end up fully responsible for the debt. In most cases, mortgage debt following a divorce is assigned to:

  • The spouse with the higher annual income.

OR

  • The spouse who gains full custody of the children.

When this happens, one spouse will have to buy out the other spouse’s equity in the property.

Car Loan Debt

When it comes to car loans, things become more complicated. If the car loan has both names on it, here are the two best options:

  • Refinance the car without your ex.
  • Propose automatic payments to come directly from your former spouse’s account.

Let’s say one person ends up with the car loan debt, but the other person was also on the loan as a cosigner. Unfortunately, if one spouse is held responsible for picking up the tab on a debt, and they neglect their payments, both parties can suffer those consequences.

Medical Debt

Each state has different laws surrounding medical debt and divorce agreements. If you live in a Community Property state, you might have to pay for your former spouse’s medical debt. However, if you live in a state that follows common law, the court will ultimately make the decision about who is responsible for what debt.

Pay off your debt before the divorce is finalized

 If you and your spouse can find a way to work out the kinks of your debt issues before the divorce is finalized, it’ll make things a lot easier in the long run. Work together to figure out who should be responsible for which debt, so that you can lower your chances of having to pay off a debt that isn’t yours.

If you’re working with credit card debt, one of you may need to transfer your credit card balance to a separate card. Consolidating your credit card balances is another common option when dividing debts.

Generally, credit card debt is going to be easier to deal with than the big things, like home loans and car loans. In many cases, couples who are going through a divorce will have to consider refinancing their loans under one party’s name.

Keep in mind that the original loan agreement supercedes the divorce agreement, so if you wait until your divorce is finalized, you might have a harder time moving things around. You can ask your lender to take your name off of an account and have it replaced with your former spouse’s name, but be prepared to provide the divorce decree as evidence. If it doesn’t work out this way, then seek legal advice from your divorce attorney about your options. Another common solution is to sell the asset in question and use the earnings to pay off the debt.

How your former spouse’s bankruptcy can affect you

If your ex-spouse isn’t able to keep up with the payments on their share of the debt, they might decide to file bankruptcy. This could cause problems for you if you didn’t choose to file as well.

Filing for bankruptcy does not erase the debts, instead it erases your ex-spouse’s liability for the debt. In this instance, you could find yourself in a situation where the creditor is now pursuing you for the debt. It’s also important that you check your credit report. Even if you weren’t the one who filed bankruptcy, it could still end up on your credit report.

Be cautious about any joint accounts you may still have open post-divorce. If you leave joint accounts open and your former spouse has access to them, he or she could potentially transfer balances from other accounts onto those ones. Safeguard your credit by paying off any debts you can manage to pay off ahead of time, so that you don’t have to worry about it later.

Marital Debt After Divorce: Who is Responsible? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout

3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout

Paying off debt with “gazelle intensity” is a great way to get rid of debt quickly. Cutting your budget to a nearly bare-bones level and working hard to increase your income, speed up debt payments and save up for retirement will help you make great progress on your financial goals, but most people can only live on a strict budget for so long before they begin experiencing debt burnout.

Find out now: How much do you need to save for retirement?

What is Debt Burnout?

Burnout is feeling exhausted with your day-to-day routine or the lack of flexibility in your budget. Some people get tired of not having extra money in their food budget to go out to eat occasionally or buy a wider variety of foods at the grocery store. Others grow tired of having little to no budget for entertainment and fun. Burnout leaves you feeling fatigued, frustrated and ready to give up on your debt-free dreams.

Beating Debt Burnout

After you’ve diagnosed yourself with debt burnout, it’s important to take immediate steps to correct it so you don’t end up un-doing all the progress you’ve made toward paying off your debt. The steps to beating burnout don’t have to be drastic. It’s possible to do it by making a few simple adjustments.

1. Reassess Your Budget

After you’ve paid down some of your debt, it’s common to start feeling some burnout from the lack of flexibility in your budget. This may be a good time to reassess your budget and perhaps give yourself a little more money for things you enjoy, like increasing how much you spend on entertainment or giving yourself a little more money for going out to eat with friends and family. This may decrease the amount of money going to debt payments, but that’s better than getting burnt out and going on a crazy credit card shopping spree down the road.

2. Plan a Fun Trip or Event

While your family is paying off debt, it’s common to give up all vacations, trips and fun events. But when you start experiencing debt burnout, planning for one of these events is a great way to stay motivated and give your family something to look forward to. The trip or event doesn’t have to be a huge and expensive ordeal. Even a short day or weekend trip is something to look forward to when you are living on such a tight budget. Try planning for when you hit a milestone – paying off half of your debt or even for when the whole thing is paid off.

3. Find Some Support

When you start to feel burnt out and unmotivated to continue your debt payoff journey, seeking out an accountability partner is a great way to help you stay on track. Single people can especially benefit from having someone to confide in and bounce ideas off of. But even couples and families can use the outside perspective of an accountability partner to help them keep focused on their financial goals and beat debt burnout.

Debt burnout is a real thing that many people struggle with as they work their way out of debt. The more debt you have to begin with and the longer the time frame for paying it off, the more likely it is that you’ll face burnout at some point.

Find out now: Should I get a fixed or adjustable rate mortgage? 

What other ways can you think of to help beat debt burnout?

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The post 3 Ways to Beat Debt Burnout appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

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Freezing Your Credit

In the age of paperless transactions, identify theft is something that virtually all of us are susceptible to. If your identity is stolen, the consequences can be severe, and in some cases, can take years to recover from. One way to be proactive against fraud and defend yourself from identity theft, is to freeze your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

Placing a credit freeze on your credit report will stop identity thieves from being able to open new accounts, lines of credit, or make any large purchases in your name, regardless of whether or not they have your Social Security number or any other sensitive information. 

What a credit freeze means

A credit freeze is a process that shuts off access to your credit reports at your request. Without your verified consent, your delicate information cannot be acquired. This means that if someone were to attempt to apply for credit in your name, your report would come up as “frozen,” and therefore the creditor would not be able to see the information needed for the application to be approved.

You can unfreeze your credit at any time by using a PIN or a password. 

Reasons to freeze your credit

It might be a good idea to freeze your credit if you’re experiencing any of the following situations:

  • Your data has been compromised in a data breach: It happens. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach and personal information related to your identity has been leaked or made vulnerable to cyber criminals, a credit freeze can offer you some extra protection. 
  • You have reason to think you’ve been a victim of identity theft: Perhaps you’ve checked your credit recently and noticed open accounts that you don’t recognize. Maybe you’ve been getting phone calls from collections agencies requesting payments from accounts you know you didn’t open. While a credit freeze won’t be able to stop them from using accounts a thief has already opened, it can stop them from opening any more. 
  • You want to protect your child from identity theft: According to the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, parents and legally guardians of children 16 years old and younger have the right to open a credit account for their child with the sole purpose of putting a freeze on it to protect them from identity theft. 

How to freeze your credit 

The process of freezing your credit is simple but does require a few steps. You will need to get in touch with each of the three major credit bureaus one by one and request a credit freeze:

  • Experian: Contact by phone at 800-349-9960 or go to their website.
  • Equifax: Contact by phone at 888-397-3742 or go to their website.
  • TransUnion: Contact by phone at 888-909-8872 or go to their website.  

The credit bureaus will ask you for your Social Security number, your date of birth and other information to verify your identity.

Once you freeze your credit, your file will be unattainable even if a thief has sensitive information such as your social security number or date of birth. If you need to use your credit file, you can unfreeze your credit report at any time. 

How to unfreeze your credit

Once you’ve frozen your credit file, it will be remain blocked until you decide that you would like to unfreeze it. You will need to unfreeze your credit report in order to open a new line of credit or make a major purchase. 

Unfreezing your credit file is simple. All you will need to do is go online to each credit bureau website and use the personal identification number (PIN) that you used to place the freeze on the account. If you don’t want to complete this task online, you can also unfreeze your credit file over the phone or through postal mail. 

When the unfreezing process is done online or by phone, it is completed within minutes of submitting the request. However, if you send your request via mail, it will take much longer. 

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to unfreeze your credit through all three of the major credit bureaus if you don’t want to. For instance, let’s say you plan to apply for credit somewhere. You can ask the creditor which credit bureau it will go through to pull up your report, and only unfreeze that one credit bureau. 

You may also have the option to unfreeze for a specific amount of time. Once the time is up, your credit file will automatically freeze again. 

Credit freeze pros and cons

There are a few reasons why you might want to freeze your credit in this day and age, but just like with anything else, there are pros and cons to credit freezing. Here is a general breakdown of the benefits and downfalls of putting a freeze on your credit report:

Pros:

  • It prevents thieves from opening new lines of credit: With a credit freeze placed on your account, no one will be able to open a new line of credit or any other type of account requiring a credit check using your personal data. Anyone trying to commit fraud will be stopped in their tracks as soon as lenders notice that the report is frozen. 
  • It won’t affect your credit score: Freezing your credit report will not damage your credit score. Additionally, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, freezing your credit report could actually protect your credit score from being damaged due to fraud. 
  • It’s free: It used to be the case that some credit freezes would cost a fee, but that is no longer the way it works. 

Cons

  • It requires some effort: Putting a credit freeze on your credit report takes some effort. You will need to get in touch with all three credit bureaus. 
  • You will need to remember your PINs: A PIN is required to lift or freeze your credit report. If you lose it, you will need to jump through extra hoops to create a new one.

It can’t stop thieves from accessing your existing accounts: Credit freezes can only stop fraudsters from opening new accounts using your information. If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze can’t block thieves from committing fraud with your current accounts. This means that thieves can still make a purchase using a credit card they stole from you.

Freezing Your Credit is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

What is Credit Card Churning? Dangers and Benefits

Credit card issuers have consumers right where they want them, lending money at high-interest rates and earning money from many different fees. Even reward cards benefit the issuers, because all the additional perks and rewards they provide are covered by the increased merchant fees, which essentially means the credit card company offers you extra money to incentivize you to spend, and then demands this money from the retailers.

It’s a good gig, but some consumers believe they can beat the credit card companies and one of the ways they do this is via something known as credit card churning.

What is Credit Card Churning?

Many reward cards offer sign-up bonuses to entice consumers to apply. Not only can you get regular cash back, statement credit, and air miles, but you’ll often get a reward just for signing up. For instance, many rewards credit cards offer a lump sum payment to all consumers who spend a specific sum of money during the first three months.

Credit card churning is about taking advantage of these bonuses, and getting maximum benefits with as little cost as possible.

“Churners” will sign up for multiple different reward cards in a short space of time, collect as many of these bonuses as they can, clear the card balance, and then reap the rewards.

Does Credit Card Churning Work?

Credit card churning does work, to an extent. Reward credit cards typically don’t require you to spend that much money to receive the sign up bonus, with most bonuses activated for a spend of just $500 to $1,000 over those first three months. This is easily achievable for most credit card users, as the average spend for reward cards is over $800 a month.

If you have good credit, it’s possible to sign up to multiple credit cards, collect bonus offers without increasing your usual spend, and get everything from hotel stays to free flights, cash back, gift cards, statement credit, and more.

However, it’s something that many credit card companies are trying to stop, as they don’t benefit from users who collect sign-up bonuses, don’t accumulate debt, and then pay off their balance in full. As a result, you may face restrictions with regards to how many bonuses you can collect within a specified timeframe. 

What’s more, there are several things that can go wrong when you’re playing with multiple new accounts like this, as all information is sent to the credit bureaus and could leave a significant mark on your credit report.

Dangers of Churning

Even if the credit card companies don’t prevent you from acquiring multiple new credit cards, there are several issues you could face, ones that will offset any benefits achieved from those generous sign-up bonuses, including:

1. You Could be Hit with Hefty Fees

Many reward credit cards have annual fees, and these average around $95 each, with some premium rewards cards going as high as $250 and even $500. At best, these fees will reduce the amount of money you receive, at worst they will completely offset all the benefits and leave you with a negative balance.

Annual fees aren’t the only fees that will reduce your profits. You may also be charged fees every time you withdraw cash, gamble, make a foreign transaction or miss a payment,

2. Your Credit Score Will Drop

Every time you apply for a new credit card, you will receive a hard inquiry, which will show on your credit report and reduce your FICO score by anywhere from 2 to 5 points. Rate shopping, which bundles multiple inquiries into one, doesn’t apply to credit card applications, so credit card churners tend to receive many hard inquiries.

A new account can also reduce your credit score. 15% of your score is based on the length of your accounts while 10% is based on how many new accounts you have. As soon as that credit card account opens, your average age will drop, you’ll have another new account, and your credit score will suffer as a result.

The damage done by a new credit card isn’t as severe as you might think, but if you keep applying and adding those new accounts, the score reduction will be noticeable. You could go from Excellent Credit to Good Credit, or from Good to Fair, and that makes a massive difference if you have a home loan or auto loan application on the horizon.

Your credit utilization ratio also plays a role here. This ratio is calculated by comparing your total debt to your available credit. If you have a debt of $3,000 spread across three credit cards with a total credit limit of $6,000, your credit utilization ratio is 50%. The higher this score is, the more of an impact it will have on your credit score, and this is key, as credit utilization accounts for a whopping 30% of your score.

Your credit utilization ratio is actually one of the reasons your credit score doesn’t take that big of a hit when you open new cards, because you’re adding a new credit limit that has yet to accumulate debt, which means this ratio grows. However, if you max that card out, this ratio will take a hit, and if you then clear the debt and close it, all those initial benefits will disappear.

You can keep the card active, of course, but this is not recommended if you’re churning.

3. You’re at Risk of Accumulating Credit Card Debt

Every new card you open and every time your credit limit grows, you run the risk of falling into a cycle of persistent debt. This is especially true where credit card rewards are concerned, as consumers spend much more on these cards than they do on non-reward credit cards.

Very few consumers accumulate credit card debt out of choice. It’s not like a loan—it’s not something they acquire because they want to make a big purchase they can’t afford. In most cases, the debt creeps up steadily. They pay it off in full every month, only to hit a rough patch. Once that happens, they miss a month and promise themselves they’ll cover everything the next month, only for it to grow bigger and bigger.

Before they realize it, they have a mass of credit card debt and are stuck paying little more than the minimum every month. 

If you start using a credit card just to accumulate rewards and you have several on the go, it’s very easy to get stuck in this cycle, at which point you’ll start paying interest and it will likely cost you more than the rewards earn you.

4. It’s Hard to Keep Track

Opening one credit card after another isn’t too difficult, providing you clear the balances in full and then close the card. However, if you’re opening several cards at once then you may lose track, in which case you could forget about balances, fees, and interest charges, and miss your chance to collect airline miles cash back, and other rewards.

How to Credit Churn Effectively

To credit churn effectively, look for the best rewards and most generous credit card offers, making sure they:

  • Suit Your Needs: A travel rewards card is useless if you don’t travel; a store card is no good if you don’t shop at that store. Look for rewards programs that benefit you personally, as opposed to simply focusing on the ones with the highest rates of return.
  • Avoid Annual Fees: An annual fee can undo all your hard work and should, therefore, be avoided. Many cards have a $0 annual fee, others charge $95 but waive the fee for the first year. Both of these are good options for credit card churning.
  • Don’t Accumulate Fees: Understand how and why you might be charged cash advance fees and foreign transaction fees and avoid them at all costs. The fees are not as straightforward as you might think and are charged for multiple purchases.
  • Plan Ahead: Make a note of the bonus offer and terms, plan ahead, and make sure you meet these terms by the due dates and that you cover the balance in full before interest has a chance to accumulate.
  • Don’t Spend for the Sake of It: Finally, and most importantly, don’t spend money just to accumulate more rewards. As soon as you start increasing your spending just to earn a few extra bucks, you’ve lost. If you spend an average of $500 a month, don’t sign up for a card that requires you to spend $3,000 in the first three months, as it will encourage bad habits. 

What Should You do if it Goes Wrong?

There are many ways that credit card churning could go wrong, some more serious than others. Fortunately, there are solutions to all these problems, even for cardholders who are completely new to this technique:

Spending Requirements Aren’t Met 

If you fail to meet the requirements of the bonus, all is not lost. Your score has taken a minor hit, but providing you followed the guidelines above, you shouldn’t have lost any money.

You now have two options: You can either clear the balance as normal and move onto your next card, taking what you have learned and trying again, or you can keep the card as a back-up or a long-term option. 

Credit card churning requires you to cycle through multiple issuers and rewards programs, never sticking with a single card for more than a few months. But you need some stability as well, so if you don’t already have a credit card to use as a backup, and if that card doesn’t charge high fees or rates, keep it and use it for emergency purchases or general use.

Creditor Refuses the Application

Creditors can refuse an application for a number of reasons. If this isn’t your first experience of churning, there’s a chance they know what you’re doing and are concerned about how the card will be used. However, this is rare, and in most cases, you’ll be refused because your credit score is too low.

Many reward credit cards have a minimum FICO score requirement of 670, others, including premium American Express cards, require scores above 700. You can find more details about credit score requirements in the fine print of all credit card offers.

Your Credit Score Takes a Hit

As discussed already, credit card churning can reduce your credit score by a handful of points and the higher your score is, the more points you are likely to lose. Fortunately, all of this is reversible.

Firstly, try not to panic and focus on the bigger picture. While new accounts and credit length account for 25% of your total score, payment history and credit utilization account for 65%, so if you keep making payments on your accounts and don’t accumulate too much credit card debt, your score will stabilize.

You Accumulate Too Much Debt

Credit card debt is really the only lasting and serious issue that can result from credit card churning. You’ll still earn benefits on a rolling balance, but your interest charges and fees will typically cost you much more than the benefits provide, and this is true even for the best credit cards and the most generous reward programs.

If this happens, it’s time to put credit card churning on the back-burner and focus on clearing your debts instead. Sign up for a balance transfer credit card and move your debt to a card that has a 0% APR for at least 15 months. This will give you time to assess your situation, take control of your credit history, and start chipping away at that debt.

What is Credit Card Churning? Dangers and Benefits is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com