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

Student Loan Administrative Forbearance Extends Until October

If you have federally held student loans, you’re getting a break on making payments — again.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the Education Department to extend its freeze on interest rates and payments for federally held student loans through Sept. 30, 2021.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Student Loan Administrative Forbearance?

The pause on payments and interest accrual is an extension of the administrative forbearance that originated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — aka the CARES Act — passed in March 2020 to address economic issues due to COVID-19.

Directed by emergency legislation designed, the Department of Education announced that all federally held student loans would be placed in administrative forbearance through Sept. 30, 2020. Interest rates were automatically set to 0% and all payments were suspended.

Then-President Donald Trump later signed an executive order to extend the administrative forbearance period until December 31, 2020, and the Secretary of Education extended those measures until Jan. 31, 2021.

Biden directed the extension yesterday amid a flurry of executive orders he signed on his first day in office.

What Loans Does This Legislation Cover?

The interest waiver covers all loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education, which includes Direct Loans, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, Parent and Graduate Plus loans and consolidation loans.

If you happen to have Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) and Perkins loans held by the federal government, they’re covered, too. But the vast majority of those loans are commercially held, which makes them ineligible for the benefit.

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What Does This Legislation Mean for My Student Loans?

There are four things to know about how administrative forbearance affects student loans through Sept. 30, 2021:

  • It suspends loan payments.
  • It stops collections on defaulted loans.
  • It sets the interest rates to 0%.
  • Each month of the suspension will count as a payment for the purpose of a loan forgiveness program.

Note that the suspension does not mean that the federal government is making your student loan payments for you — you’ll just be free of making loan payments for eight months without accruing interest or incurring late fees during that period.

Biden did not, despite some hopes, forgive thousands of dollars in student loans in his initial executive orders. That request will need to go through Congress and faces opposition — which means if student loan balances are wiped out permanently, it won’t be for a while.

Here are five ways to know if you can benefit from the forbearance period.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

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

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

Unemployment Benefits Explained: Terms, Definitions and More

Since the start of the pandemic, mass unemployment has rocked the nation. To help mitigate the damage, two economic stimulus packages allotted unprecedented sums of money to create new benefits programs that assist people who are out of work.

Millions of newly eligible folks now have access to benefits. But the new programs put state unemployment agencies in a tricky position. They are receiving record-breaking surges in applications at the same time that they are tasked with creating and paying out brand new benefits. The result: overburdened websites, unclear instructions and lots of jargon.

Take, for example, this update to applicants on Arkansas’ unemployment website after the second stimulus package passed:

“Some extensions and changes to federal UI programs will include the reinstatement of the FPUC program, extension of PUA program and PEUC program for those who qualify,” the notice states.

After reading that sentence, you may have a couple choice acronyms yourself. Maybe, “OMG — WTH does that mean?”

“Understanding the difference with all these programs and acronyms is going to be confusing,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment benefits policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Our plain English guide will help you make sense of it all. Consider bookmarking this page and referencing it as you trudge through the process of getting your benefits.

The 2 Unemployment Programs You Definitely Need to Know

The overwhelming majority of people relying on unemployment benefits are receiving aid from two key programs. According to figures from the Department of Labor, more than 13 million people are collecting Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits.

These two foundational programs provide the bulk of unemployment aid through weekly payments. Once you understand the difference between them, a lot of the other programs will start to make sense.

Unemployment Insurance (UI)

Also referred to as Unemployment Compensation, UI is the longstanding benefits program run by each individual state. It’s for people who are out of work at no fault of their own. To qualify for UI, you have to have made a certain amount of money in the recent past  — typically from a W-2 job with an employer that paid into the unemployment system through payroll taxes. Specifics like previous employment duration or earnings vary.

Depending on your state, average UI payments are between $180 and $490 per week, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor. The duration of UI programs also depends on your state. They last between 12 and 30 weeks (without any extensions). The most common duration is 26 weeks.

Additionally, to collect UI, you have to be able to work, available to work and actively seeking work. Some states have waived the “actively seeking work” requirement during the pandemic.

Pro Tip

Use this tool from the Department of Labor to find your state’s unemployment website and start a UI claim.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a new federal unemployment program. It’s up and running in all 50 states. The first stimulus package created PUA in March 2020. Throughout the pandemic, PUA has been a lifeline for tens of millions of jobless people who don’t qualify for regular UI benefits.

For the first time nationally, gig workers and freelancers, who are considered 1099 independent contractors, have been able to receive unemployment benefits through PUA.

Beyond helping those who were laid off, PUA offers benefits to people who can’t go to work or lost income due to a variety of coronavirus-related reasons. Some examples include contracting COVID-19, caregiving for someone who has COVID-19 or staying home to take care of your kids whose school closed due to COVID-19 lockdown rules.

Because PUA is a federal program, all states must offer it for a maximum of 50 weeks. The minimum weekly payments vary by state, however, because they’re calculated as half your state’s average UI payment. With average state UI payments between $180 and $490, you can expect minimum weekly PUA payments between $90 and $245 depending on your state.

Our guide to filing for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance includes an interactive map to help you find your state’s application rules.
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7 Quick Definitions to Important Unemployment Terms and Programs

Now that you have a better understanding of the two major unemployment benefits programs, let’s look at extensions, payment enhancements and other important programs that you may be eligible for.

Here’s a primer on seven key terms that you’re sure to come across as you apply for benefits.

CARES Act: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was the first coronavirus relief package passed in March 2020. It expanded unemployment assistance, authorized $1,200 stimulus checks and provided relief for small businesses, among several other things. Under this law, those who are partially or fully unemployed as a direct result of the coronavirus may receive up to 39 weeks of federal unemployment benefits.

CAA: The Continued Assistance Act, aka Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers, is part of the $900 billion stimulus package that became law on Dec. 27, 2020. It extends many of the unemployment programs created by the CARES Act.

DOL: The federal Department of Labor oversees all states’ unemployment systems. Your state may have its own agency named the Department of Labor that administers its unemployment benefits. Generally speaking, DOL refers to the federal agency.

DUA: Disaster Unemployment Assistance is not Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. You may come across this long-standing natural disaster assistance program on your state’s unemployment website. Do not apply. Despite their similar names, they are very different.

EB: Extended Benefits are available in every state except South Dakota. EB is a state-level benefit that extends Unemployment Insurance by six to 20 weeks — depending on your state and your local unemployment rate. To qualify during the pandemic, you may have to exhaust a federal unemployment extension first. (See PEUC below.)

FPUC: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation boosts unemployment benefits by $300 a week for up to 11 weeks between Dec. 27, 2020, and March 14, 2021. Anyone who is approved for at least $1 of unemployment benefits will automatically receive this bonus. No separate application or action is needed. This program previously paid out $600 per week under the CARES Act, but that version expired in July 2020.

PEUC: Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extends the length of Unemployment Insurance aid for a maximum of 24 weeks. The first stimulus deal extended UI benefits for 13 weeks, and the second stimulus package added an additional 11 weeks. New applicants (after Dec. 27, 2020) are only eligible for the 11-week extension. This program does not extend Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

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

How Long Does It Take To Get a Credit Card?

Generally speaking, it takes seven to 10 business days to get a credit card once you’re approved. The specific amount of time can vary as many factors throughout the process affect how fast you receive your card. Getting approved can happen in a matter of seconds or days, depending on what kind of card you apply for. Whether you apply online or in person may also affect how fast you’ll receive your credit card in the mail.

How Long Does It Take to Get My Card in the Mail?

The longest step in getting a credit card is waiting for it to come in the mail. Shipping time frames can vary depending on which credit card you apply for. Here are the average time frames of many popular credit card companies today:

  • American Express: seven to 10 business days
  • Wells Fargo: seven to 10 business days
  • Discover: three to five business days
  • Capital One: seven to 10 business days
  • Bank of America: seven to 10 business days
  • Chase: three to 5 business days
  • Citi: seven to 10 business days

Unfortunately, the time it takes for the credit card to go through the mail can be impacted by many factors out of your control. You may get your card sooner than stated above, or later if there are external mail carrier issues.

How to Get a Credit Card Right Away

Unfortunately, most credit cards aren’t made available to you the same day you apply. Even though you can get approved for a card almost instantly, you must still wait for the card to come in the mail. However, credit card companies sometimes offer options to help speed up the process.

Most banks offer expedited shipping if you need your card delivered faster than usual. Depending on what type of card and bank you apply with, they may charge you an extra fee for this option. Some banks will make things easier for you by giving you your credit card number right after approval. This allows you to start making purchases while waiting for the physical card to arrive. American Express typically allows this with all of their cards to increase their user satisfaction.

What to Do If You Haven’t Received Your Card Yet

If you notice that you haven’t received your card after some time, reach out to your bank or credit card company. By reaching out, you minimize the risk of the card getting lost or stolen. Your bank may also be able to provide you with a temporary card while they sort everything out. Not all lenders, but if they do they may charge you an additional fee.

How To Apply for a Credit Card

To get a credit card, you must first apply either online or in person for approval. Receiving the credit card itself and waiting to be approved are two separate steps. Therefore, the time it takes to receive your card can vary from person to person.

What Do Creditors Look for in Applications?

Credit card applications typically ask for your personal information as well as your financial background. To determine your financial background, they’ll ask for your Social Security number and source of income.

Your Social Security number will allow the creditors access to your credit report. After close evaluation, you’ll either be approved or declined for the card. When looking at your report, creditors typically pay close attention to data such as your debt-to-income ratio, hard inquiries, and any delinquent accounts you may have.

What Do Creditors Look for In a Credit Report?

Your debt-to-income ratio refers to how much of your card’s limit is spent. Consistently using too much of your limit may cause creditors to view you as more of a high-risk borrower. Similarly, too many hard inquiries can make you seem risky. Finally, a delinquent account is another red flag. This shows that you may not have been paying off your credit card bills on time. Lenders won’t be as willing to approve you for a credit card if you have a history of account delinquency, as it’s not a good sign for them that you’ll be a reliable borrower.

Some credit card companies pre-approve users who they think may be a good fit based on a soft version of their credit report. A soft version of your report gives lenders a glimpse of your financial background, but won’t affect your credit score. When your report shows that you meet a few requirements, they’ll send a card in the mail for you to use if you apply. Receiving the card in the mail doesn’t mean that you are automatically approved. It just helps speed up the process of getting a credit card. Pre-approving users is a way companies market their cards to users, in hopes of them applying later on.

How to Build Credit With a Credit Card

When you use a credit card, you build credit simultaneously. The way you manage and use your card can have either a positive or negative effect on your credit score.

How Long Does It Take to Build Credit?

If this is your first time using a credit card, then you are most likely building credit from scratch. Building a credit score doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes about six months or so to build enough credit to have a credit report. Beginning early can be of great benefit to you down the line. A major factor in the calculation of your credit score is the length of your credit history. The longer you’ve spent building your credit, the more of a positive impact it can have on your score.

Ways to Keep Your Credit Score Healthy

When using a credit card, it can pay off in the long run to follow some best practices. You can do this by having a good understanding of what exactly factors into your credit score. The following are good habits to establish for maintaining a healthy score:

  • Make on-time payments to avoid a delinquent account.
  • Aim to only use 30 percent of your credit limit at a time to show you can manage your card wisely.
  • Avoid applying to too many cards or loans in a short time, as it can result in a hard inquiry. Too many hard inquiries can be the reason you are getting declined for your financial requests.
  • Stay on top of monitoring your credit score and report, so you can identify any mistakes before it’s too late to fix.

Buildig Credit Best Practices

While the most common time frame for getting a credit card is seven to 10 days, it can vary from person to person. If this seems like a long time, try reaching out to your bank. They may be able to expedite shipping or give you access to your credit card number in advance. Each credit card lender is different, so it’s important to do your research before applying. Take a look at our guide on the best credit card offers to help start your search.

The post How Long Does It Take To Get a Credit Card? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

6 Things Your Mortgage Lender Wants You To Know About Getting a Home Loan During COVID-19

mortgage during coronavirusGetty Images

Getting a mortgage, paying your mortgage, refinancing your mortgage: These are all major undertakings, but during a pandemic, all of it becomes more complicated. Sometimes a lot more complicated.

But make no mistake, home buyers are still taking out and paying down mortgages during the current global health crisis. There have, in fact, been some silver linings amid the economic uncertainty—hello, record-low interest rates—but also plenty of changes to keep up with. Mortgage lending looks much different now than at the start of the year.

Whether you’re applying for a new mortgage, struggling to pay your current mortgage, or curious about refinancing, here’s what mortgage lenders from around the country want you to know.

1. Rates have dropped, but getting a mortgage has gotten more complicated

First, the good news about mortgage interest rates: “Rates have been very low in recent weeks, and have come back down to their absolute lowest levels in a long time,” says Yuri Umanski, senior mortgage consultant at Premia Relocation Mortgage in Troy, MI.

That means this could be a great time to take out a mortgage and lock in a low rate. But getting a mortgage is more difficult during a pandemic.

“Across the industry, underwriting a mortgage has become an even more complex process,” says Steve Kaminski, head of U.S. residential lending at TD Bank. “Many of the third-party partners that lenders rely on—county offices, appraisal firms, and title companies—have closed or taken steps to mitigate their exposure to COVID-19.”

Even if you can file your mortgage application online, Kaminski says many steps in the process traditionally happen in person, like getting notarization, conducting a home appraisal, and signing closing documents.

As social distancing makes these steps more difficult, you might have to settle for a “drive-by appraisal” instead of a thorough, more traditional appraisal inside the home.

“And curbside closings with masks and gloves started to pop up all over the country,” Umanski adds.

2. Be ready to prove (many times) that you can pay a mortgage

If you’ve lost your job or been furloughed, you might not be able to buy your dream house (or any house) right now.

“Whether you are buying a home or refinancing your current mortgage, you must be employed and on the job,” says Tim Ross, CEO of Ross Mortgage Corp. in Troy, MI. “If someone has a loan in process and becomes unemployed, their mortgage closing would have to wait until they have returned to work and received their first paycheck.”

Lenders are also taking extra steps to verify each borrower’s employment status, which means more red tape before you can get a loan.

Normally, lenders run two or three employment verifications before approving a new loan or refinancing, but “I am now seeing employment verification needed seven to 10 times—sometimes even every three days,” says Tiffany Wolf, regional director and senior loan officer at Cabrillo Mortgage in Palm Springs, CA. “Today’s borrowers need to be patient and readily available with additional documents during this difficult and uncharted time in history.”

3. Your credit score might not make the cut anymore

Economic uncertainty means lenders are just as nervous as borrowers, and some lenders are raising their requirements for borrowers’ credit scores.

“Many lenders who were previously able to approve FHA loans with credit scores as low as 580 are now requiring at least a 620 score to qualify,” says Randall Yates, founder and CEO of The Lenders Network.

Even if you aren’t in the market for a new home today, now is a good time to work on improving your credit score if you plan to buy in the future.

“These changes are temporary, but I would expect them to stay in place until the entire country is opened back up and the unemployment numbers drop considerably,” Yates says.

4. Forbearance isn’t forgiveness—you’ll eventually need to pay up

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act requires loan servicers to provide forbearance (aka deferment) to homeowners with federally backed mortgages. That means if you’ve lost your job and are struggling to make your mortgage payments, you could go months without owing a payment. But forbearance isn’t a given, and it isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

“The CARES Act is not designed to create a freedom from the obligation, and the forbearance is not forgiveness,” Ross says. “Missed payments will have to be made up.”

You’ll still be on the hook for the payments you missed after your forbearance period ends, so if you can afford to keep paying your mortgage now, you should.

To determine if you’re eligible for forbearance, call your loan servicer—don’t just stop making payments.

If your deferment period is ending and you’re still unable to make payments, you can request delaying payments for additional months, says Mark O’ Donovan, CEO of Chase Home Lending at JPMorgan Chase.

After you resume making your payments, you may be able to defer your missed payments to the end of your mortgage, O’Donovan says. Check with your loan servicer to be sure.

5. Don’t be too fast to refinance

Current homeowners might be eager to refinance and score a lower interest rate. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s not the best move for everyone.

“Homeowners should consider how long they expect to reside in their home,” Kaminski says. “They should also account for closing costs such as appraisal and title insurance policy fees, which vary by lender and market.”

If you plan to stay in your house for only the next two years, for example, refinancing might not be worth it—hefty closing costs could offset the savings you would gain from a lower interest rate.

“It’s also important to remember that refinancing is essentially underwriting a brand-new mortgage, so lenders will conduct income verification and may require the similar documentation as the first time around,” Kaminski adds.

6. Now could be a good time to take out a home equity loan

Right now, homeowners can also score low rates on a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, to finance major home improvements like a new roof or addition.

“This may be a great time to take out a home equity line to consolidate debt,” Umanski says. “This process will help reduce the total obligations on a monthly basis and allow for the balance to be refinanced into a much lower rate.”

Just be careful not to overimprove your home at a time when the economy and the housing market are both in flux.

The post 6 Things Your Mortgage Lender Wants You To Know About Getting a Home Loan During COVID-19 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

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“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

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If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

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“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Secured vs. Unsecured Loans: Here’s the Difference

Whether you’re trying to buy a home or looking to get a college degree, you may need to take out a loan to finance your goals. If you’re seeking out your first loan, know that borrowing money is a common practice and you don’t need a degree in economics to understand it! Learning more about loans and the different types can help you make informed decisions and take control of your finances.

Loans take many forms but they all fall within two common categories: secured vs. unsecured loans. Whether you’re approved for either type of loan depends on your creditworthiness. Creditworthiness refers to how responsible you are at repaying debt and if it’s worthwhile or risky to grant you new credit. It’s helpful to be aware of your credit prior to seeking out a loan so you know where you stand.

Now that you’re familiar with the role creditworthiness plays in getting a loan, let’s discuss the differences between secured and unsecured loans, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which one may be right for you.

What’s the Difference Between Secured vs. Unsecured Loans?

What’s the Difference Between Secured vs. Unsecured Loans?

The main difference between secured and unsecured loans is how they use collateral. Collateral is when something of economic value is used as security for a debt, in the event that the debt is not repaid. Usually collateral comes in the form of material property, such as a car, house, or other real estate. If the debt is not repaid, the collateral is seized and sold to repay all or a portion of the debt.

Key Difference: A secured loan requires collateral, while an unsecured loan doesn’t require collateral.

What Is a Secured Loan?

A secured loan requires collateral as security in case you fail to repay your debt. If secured debt is not repaid, the collateral is taken. In addition to seizing collateral, lenders can start debt collection, file negative credit information on your report, and sue you for outstanding debt. This generally makes secured loans more risky for the borrower.

Conversely, collateral decreases the risk for lenders, especially when loaning money to those with little to no credit history or low creditworthiness. Less risk means that lenders may offer some leeway regarding interest rates and borrowing limits. See the list below to review other typical secured loan characteristics.

Characteristics of a Secured Loan:

For borrowers:

  • Presence of collateral
  • Typically more risky
  • May require a down payment
  • May sell property to repay loan
  • Generally lower interest rates
  • Longer repayment period
  • Higher borrowing limits
  • Easier to obtain for those with poor or little credit history

For lenders:

  • Typically less risky
  • Lender can take your collateral
  • Lender can hold the title to your property until loan is repaid

Secured Loan Examples

The most common uses of a secured loan are to finance large purchases such as a mortgage. Usually, these loans can only be used for a specific, intended purchase like a house, car, or boat. A home equity loan is another example of a secure loan. Some loans like business loans or debt consolidation can be secured or unsecured.

Secured Loan Examples

What Is an Unsecured Loan?

An unsecured loan doesn’t require collateral to secure the amount borrowed. This type of loan is granted based on creditworthiness and income. High creditworthiness makes an unsecured loan more accessible.

The absence of collateral makes this type of loan less risky for borrowers and much riskier for lenders. If unsecured debt is not repaid, the lender cannot seize property automatically. They must engage in debt collection, report negative credit information, or sue. As a result of the increased risk, unsecured loans have characteristics that attempt to reduce the risk. These may include higher interest rates or lower borrowing limits, and you can see more in the list below.

Characteristics of an Unsecured Loan:

For borrower:

  • No collateral required
  • Typically less risky
  • Qualify based on credit and income
  • Stricter conditions to qualify
  • Generally higher interest rates
  • Lower borrowing limits

For lender:

  • Typically more risky
  • Lender can’t take property right away if you default

Unsecured Loan Examples

Common unsecured loans include credit cards, personal loans, student loans, and medical debt. Debt consolidation and business loans can also be unsecured. In each of these instances, collateral is not required and you are trusted to repay your unsecured debt.

Unsecured Loan Examples

Advantages and Disadvantages to Consider

When it comes to deciding on the type of loan you need, it’s important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Secured Loans

Secured loans present advantages for repayment, interest, and borrowing amount, but have disadvantages regarding a borrower’s risk and limitations of use.

Advantages

  1. Bigger borrowing limits
  2. Less risk for lenders usually means lower interest rates for borrowers
  3. Longer repayment period
  4. Available tax deductions for interest paid on certain loans (e.g., a mortgage)

Disadvantages

  1. Risky for borrower (potential for loss of collateral like home, car, stocks, or bonds)
  2. Specifically for intended purpose (e.g., a home, but home equity loans are an exception)

Unsecured Loans

Unsecured loans can be advantageous for borrowers regarding risk and time, but they pose a disadvantage when it comes to interest rates and stricter qualifications.

Advantages

  1. Less risky for borrower
  2. Useful loan if you don’t own property to use as collateral
  3. Quicker application process than for a secured loan (e.g., a credit card)

Disadvantages

  1. More risky for lenders usually means higher interest rates for borrowers
  2. Hard to qualify for if you have low creditworthiness or inconsistent income (can qualify with a cosigner)

Take a look at the chart below to compare the key advantages and disadvantages between secured and unsecured loans.

Secured Loans

Unsecured Loans

Advantages

• Lower interest rates
• Higher borrowing limits
• Easier to qualify
• No risk of losing collateral
• Less risky for borrower

Disadvantages

• Risk losing collateral
• More risky for borrower
• Higher interest rates
• Lower borrowing limits
• Harder to qualify

Which Loan Type Is Best for You?

After considering the advantages and disadvantages of both loan types, it’s helpful to know which one is the best for certain circumstances. Here are some common contexts in which one may be better than the other.

  • A secured loan may be best if you’re trying to make a large property purchase or don’t have the best credit. The piece of property that you are purchasing can be used as collateral if you don’t already own other property. Additionally, this loan is more accessible for you if you have low creditworthiness and may be more advantageous with lower interest rates.
  • An unsecured loan may be best if you have high creditworthiness and a steady income. High creditworthiness helps you meet strict qualification criteria and can also help you obtain better interest rates (given that this type is characterized by higher interest).

Overall, secured and unsecured loans are each useful in different situations. Remember that the key difference is that unsecured loans don’t need collateral, while secured loans do. Secured loans are less risky for the lender and may allow for some advantageous repayment conditions. On the other hand, unsecured loans are risky for the lender, and they often come with stricter conditions that try to lessen that risk.

It is important to make smart financial decisions such as repaying debt on time and maintaining a good credit history. High creditworthiness is the key to getting the best conditions on any loan. No matter your circumstances, identifying which loan type is best for you depends on your specific credit and goals. Visit our loan center for help in deciding which loan is right for you.

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

 

The post Secured vs. Unsecured Loans: Here’s the Difference appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Airline, hotel loyalty programs extending perks for members through coronavirus

While COVID-19 has affected all parts of daily life, the travel industry has certainly been put on hold as people have had to cancel plans and stay at home. Since most travelers plan many months in advance, this also leaves many holding tickets they can no longer use. Frequent flyers and hotel loyalty members are left wondering what recourse they have, if any, when it comes to their member status and points or miles.

We researched the major players in the hotel and airline industry to find out how these companies plan to accommodate their valued members – by extending points, status levels and more – in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus relief measures by loyalty or travel program

  • Hilton Honors
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • World of Hyatt
  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Choice Privileges
  • United MileagePlus
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • British Airways
  • CLEAR
  • TSA Precheck
  • Global Entry

Hilton Honors

In addition to donating up to one million rooms to medical professionals, Hilton has promised to compensate its Hilton Honors loyalty program members in a number of ways.

Lower status requirements

Hilton has cut status qualification requirements by half.

Elite status Previous status requirements New status requirements
Silver status 4 stays, 10 nights or 25,000 base points 2 stays, 5 nights or 12,500 base points
Gold status 20 stays, 40 nights or 75,000 base points 10 stays, 30 nights or 37,500 base points
Diamond status 30 stays, 60 nights or 120,000 base points 15 stays, 30 nights or 60,000 base points

Status extension

For any Silver, Gold or Diamond members that were due to downgrade in 2020 or 2021, statuses will be extended through March 31, 2022.

Cardholder benefits

Weekend night rewards on eligible Hilton credit cards that were not expired by May 1, 2020, will now be valid through August 31, 2021, and certificates issued from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, are valid for 24 months from the date of issuance. All free weekend night certificates issued in 2021 can be used any night of the week and expiration is extended until Dec. 31, 2022.

Additionally, bonus points will continue to count as base points on eligible purchases through Dec. 31, 2021, and toward elite status tier qualification, including Lifetime Diamond Status.

Other rewards

All 2020 elite qualifying nights will be rolled over to the 2021 status year. This applies to all nights members have already completed or will complete this calendar year.

On top of that, Hilton has lowered the requirements to earn Milestone Bonuses for 2021. Previously, you could earn 10,000 bonus points every 10 nights after completing 40 nights in a calendar year. Starting in January, that requirement has been changed to 20 nights stayed to align with the new Gold qualification level. However, 60 nights will still earn you 30,000 points.

Diamond members will be able to gift Gold status for staying 30 nights in 2021 instead of 60 nights which was the previous requirement. The requirement to gift Diamond status is lowered to 60 nights instead of 100.

To ensure member safety, Hilton is providing flexible cancellations and full points refunds for all Hilton Honors experiences booked through May 31, 2021.

You can follow further updates for Hilton Honors members on the loyalty program website.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott plans to compensate its Marriott Bonvoy members, although benefits may vary depending on members’ location.

See related: Marriott data breach involves 5.2 million hotel guests

Status extension

Bonvoy members who earned elite status for 2020 can now enjoy their benefits through February 2022.

Points extension

Points set to expire by February 2021 will be paused, and no points will expire until after that time period. 

Other rewards

Active free night awards (as part of Marriott credit cards or packages) set to expire beginning March 1, 2020, will be extended through Aug. 1, 2021. Additionally, more recent certificates set to expire before July 31, 2021, will be extended through that date as well. Suite night awards set to expire by Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended another year through Dec. 31, 2021.

Additionally, Marriott will deposit Elite Night Credits into Bonvoy elite members’ accounts in the amount of 50% of the nights required for the status they earned in 2019. This can make it easier for the members to reach the next tier.

Elite Night Credits deposit breakdown

Elite status Annual tier requirements Extra elite night credits
Ambassador Elite 100 Qualifying Nights and $20,000 stay spend 50 Elite Night Credits
Titanium Elite 75 Qualifying Nights 38 Elite Night Credits
Platinum Elite 50 Qualifying Nights 25 Elite Night Credits
Gold Elite 25 Qualifying Nights 13 Elite Night Credits
Silver Elite 10 Qualifying Nights 5 Elite Night Credits

Stay up to date on relief measures for Bonvoy members on the company’s COVID-19 page.

Coronavirus: What to do if you’re unemployed and have credit card debt

Credit card issuers offer cardholders relief amid coronavirus fears

How to manage your credit cards during the coronavirus outbreak

IHG Rewards Club

Due to travel constraints and shortened travel periods, IHG has lowered its requirements for elite status membership by 25% or more, as well as extended statuses and points for all members (since elite members’ points never expire). 

Lower status requirements

Status Previous qualification requirements New qualification requirements
Gold
  • 10,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 10 qualifying nights in a calendar year
  • 7,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 7 qualifying nights in a calendar year
Platinum
  • 40,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 40 qualifying nights in a calendar year
  • 30,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 30 qualifying nights in a calendar year
Spire
  • 75,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 75 qualifying nights in a calendar year
  • 55,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or
  • 55 qualifying nights in a calendar year

See related: The benefits of IHG Rewards Club elite status

Status extension

Program statuses will be extended through January 2022 for all members. Spire elite members will also retain their Choice benefit of 25,000 bonus points or gifting of Platinum Elite status to someone each year.

Award certificates 

Anniversary night certificates (U.S. and U.K. only) set to expire before March 1, 2020, will be extended through the end of the year. All 2020 certificates will be redeemable for 18 months, instead of the usual 12. Some members have also reported that free night certificates expiring before Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended until August 2021.

Follow updates to IHG Rewards Club benefits on the program’s travel advisory page.

World of Hyatt

The World of Hyatt loyalty program will extend all statuses and rewards to compensate valued members.

Status extension

All active elite statuses, as of March 31, 2020, will be extended through Feb. 28, 2022. 

Points extension

Forfeiting points due to inactivity will be suspended through June 30, 2021. No points will expire until that date.

Other rewards

Any earned rewards, such as free nights or upgrades, set to expire between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Check the updates to Hyatt relief measures on the program’s COVID-19 page.

online.

Keep an eye on Wyndham’s COVID-19 statement page for updates.

Choice Privileges

It took Choice some time to follow suit and join other hotel chains in extending elite statuses and offering other promotions amid the outbreak. On May 21, 2020, the company announced a series of offers to expand the benefits of its Choice Privileges loyalty program.

“Even during this crisis, our members found a number of ways to engage with us and make a difference,” said Jamie Russo, vice president, loyalty programs and customer engagement, Choice Hotels. “Some of them are essential and frontline workers who chose to stay in our small-business hotels, and others showed their generosity by donating their Choice Privileges points to aid recovery efforts. Our latest loyalty program changes tell our members that we appreciate their continued support and our hotels are here to welcome them whenever they feel safe traveling again.”

Status extension

All members’ current elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Lower status requirements

Choice is also easing requirements to qualify for elite status in 2021.

Elite status Previous status requirements 2021 status requirements
Gold status 10 nights 7 nights
Platinum status 20 nights 15 nights
Diamond status 40 nights 25 nights

Additionally, Choice is giving current elite members a limited-time upgrade to the next tier. Gold members will be upgraded to Platinum status and Platinum members will be upgraded to Diamond. Additionally, members who stayed at least five nights by Dec. 31, 2020, will be able to keep their upgraded tier through 2021.

United MileagePlus

United has said it would compensate their MileagePlus members by extending all annual memberships, subscriptions and checked bag benefits for six months. United also plans to make status membership requirements easier and will release information later in 2020.

Status extension

All MileagePlus Premier members will get to retain their 2020 status through Jan. 31, 2022.

Lower status requirements

MileagePlus Premier membership now has easier requirements, reduced 50% for each status level.

2021 status Premier qualifying flights and PQP … or PQP
Silver 6 2,000 2,500
Gold 12 4,000 5,000
Platinum 18 6,000 7,500
1K 26 9,000 12,000

Other rewards

All valid travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020, will be extended to be valid for two years for booking, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. All redeposit fees for flights booked through May 31, 2020, will be waived, as well as all fees for members who cancel within at least 30 days of departure.

Follow more updates to United MileagePlus on the program’s travel notice page.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta has stepped up to say they will compensate their Medallion members by extending their Member status.

Status extension

2020 Medallion Member status will be extended through Jan. 31, 2022, and this change should be reflected on the member’s SkyMiles account by Feb. 1, 2021. Additionally, all 2020 Medallion Qualification Miles will roll over into 2021.

Follow updates to the Delta SkyMiles program on the coronavirus travel update page.

American Airlines AAdvantage

As AAdvantage members experience reduced travel opportunities due to the coronavirus, American Airlines is offering elite status extension, lowering elite status requirements and allowing eligible cardholders to earn miles toward Million Miler status with credit card spend.

Status extension

Members whose elite status expires on Jan. 31, 2021, will automatically get an extension until Jan. 31, 2022.

Lower status requirements

Members will be able to qualify for a higher elite status in 2021 with lower requirements, including Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD), Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Segment (EQS).

Gold oneworld Ruby Platinum oneworld Sapphire Platinum Pro oneworld Sapphire Executive Platinum oneworld Emerald
  • $2,000 EQDs and 20,000 EQMs or
  • $2,000 EQDs and 20 EQSs
  • $4,500 EQDs and 40,000 EQMs or
  • $4,500 EQDs and 45 EQSs
  • $7,000 EQDs and 60,000 EQMs or
  • $7,000 EQDs and 70 EQSs
  • $12,000 EQDs and 80,000 EQMs or
  • $12,000 EQDs and 95 EQSs

Cardholder benefits

The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® cardholders who hold a companion certificate expiring Dec. 31, 2020, will receive a six-month extension as well, bringing the expiration date to June 30, 2021.

Learn more about AAdvantage program updates on aa.com.

JetBlue TrueBlue

JetBlue took a bit longer to join other airlines in taking measures to support loyal customers. On May 14, 2020, JetBlue announced it’s extending Mosaic elite statuses, as well as making it easier to earn one.

Status extension

All currently valid Mosaic elite statuses will be extended through Dec. 31, 2021.

Lower status requirements

JetBlue is reducing the qualifying thresholds for Mosaic status by 50% for 2021. To earn the status this year, you’ll need to earn 7,500 qualifying TrueBlue base points or 6,000 qualifying TrueBlue base points and 15 flight segments.

Alternatively, you can get the elite status by spending $50,000 in annual net purchases on the JetBlue Plus card – this spending requirement hasn’t changed for 2020.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has also made it easier for customers to earn and maintain elite status amid the pandemic.

Status extension

In March 2020, Virgin Atlantic extended status for Gold and Silver members, allowing them an additional six months to meet the requirements.

On Aug. 20, 2020, the airline added another six months to the extension, making it one year in total.

Other rewards

Starting Sept. 1, 2020, the Flying Club program members will be able to earn tier points on award flights, meaning they’ll be able to earn elite-qualifying points on flights where they used Flying Club miles to redeem for travel.

On top of that, Virgin Atlantic makes it easier for members to earn and redeem Companion Vouchers, Upgrade Vouchers and Clubhouse Vouchers.

Members can now use Companion Vouchers with any ticket in any booking class, regardless of status. Gold and Silver members can book their companion into any cabin for zero miles, and Red members can book their companion into Economy and Premium for zero miles or upper class at a 50% discount.

Upgrade Vouchers can also be used with any ticket in any booking class, excluding Economy Light, for a one-cabin upgrade on a return flight.

Clubhouse Vouchers can be used for one entry to any clubhouse when booked on a Virgin flight or with Air France, Delta or KLM when flying internationally. Gold members will continue to receive two vouchers.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

On April 16, Southwest announced a status extension for A-List and A-List Preferred members and companion passes. The company is also giving a points “boost” to all Rapid Rewards members.

“As we continue to navigate our way through this unprecedented time and deal with extraordinary challenges, we are committed to keeping you informed and updated on the steps we are taking to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Southwest said in a message to Rapid Rewards members.

Status extension

Companion Pass Members who received an extension of their earned Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021, will have their benefits extended for another six months. Members will be able to keep their status through Dec. 31, 2021.

Other rewards

Southwest is giving all Rapid Rewards members with an account opened by Dec. 31, 2020, a “boost” of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status, as well as 15,000 tier qualifying points and 10 qualifying flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred.

Southwest cardholders can also spend their way all the way to A-List status, with no cap on tier qualifying points (TQPs) earned through card spend. Previously, cardholders could only earn up to 15,000 TQPs per year via card spend.

Additionally, travel funds created or expiring between March 1, 2020, and Sep. 7, 2020, will now expire on Sep. 7, 2022. Alternatively, Rapid Rewards members can convert those funds into Rapid Rewards points. According to Southwest, the conversion ratio is “the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today.”

British Airways

On June 11, British Airways finally joined other airlines in extending the elite status for its members. Additionally, the carrier is reducing the number of tier points needed to reach a higher membership tier.

Status extension

British Airways is extending tier status by 12 months for members who have a tier point collection end date of July 2020, through to June 2021.

Lower status requirements

The carrier has also reduced the number of points needed to retain and upgrade a membership status by 25%.

Here are the new tier qualification thresholds:

  • Bronze: 225 Tier Points or 18 eligible flights
  • Silver: 450 Tier Points or 37 eligible flights
  • Gold: 1125 Tier Points

Cardholder benefits

Members who have earned heir Gold Upgrade Vouchers, Companion Vouchers and Travel Together Tickets with a British Airways credit card will get a 6-month expiration extension to any current vouchers.

CLEAR

CLEAR is a program that makes it quicker for travelers to get through airport security lanes by using biometrics for ID verification. Since many people are currently avoiding traveling due to the coronavirus outbreak, a CLEAR membership might not be useful at the moment.

Originally, CLEAR offered customers to pause their membership for three months. Now CLEAR is allowing members to request a three-month extension to their membership, which can be done by contacting the company directly. With customer service channels such as phone lines overloaded by requests, the fastest way to do so is via CLEAR’s online chat. However, some users have reported experiencing difficulties finding the chat box on the website. Alternatively, you can reach CLEAR by text, email or phone.

TSA Precheck

TSA Precheck is a five-year membership that provides expedited security checks at select domestic airports in the U.S. At this time, TSA is planning to keep enrollment centers open while working to determine if any temporary closures are required. Some centers have been closed or changed hours.

If you’re planning to visit an enrollment center, it’s recommended that you schedule an appointment – as walk-ins may be deferred.

Visit TSA’s enrollment questions page for more information.

Global Entry

Global Entry, a program run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that allows travelers to get expedited clearance through automatic kiosks when arriving in the U.S, has reopened its enrollment centers on Sept. 8, 2020. After a six-month hiatus, the program will finally allow conditionally approved Global Entry applicants to complete in-person interviews at most Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers in the U.S. The interviews must be scheduled in advance online, and their availability will vary by location.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak has also affected processing times for Global Entry renewals, CPB has increased the renewal grace period to 18 months. This means that if you apply for your Global Entry renewal before its expiration date, you’ll be able to use Global Entry for another 18 months.

As the coronavirus situation is unprecedented and changing rapidly every day, hotels and airlines continue to make updates to their travel policies, including their loyalty programs. Travelers should continue to check airline and hotel websites as the situation evolves. If they cannot find the information they need online, they should contact their hotel, airline or travel agency’s customer service number.

Source: creditcards.com