7 Credit Card Strategies to Help Your Credit

by Shelton on October 31st, 2014

filed under Secured Credit

By Christine DiGangi, Credit.com

Using a credit card is one of the easiest ways to build your credit score, assuming you use it responsibly. The revolving-credit trade line will help you establish a pattern of payment behavior and credit use, which have the most influence on your credit score, and there are a few simple things you can do with your card to make sure youre building a strong credit score.

How to Get a Credit Card — and a Good Credit Score

Of course, you need a credit card to employ card-based credit-building strategies, and depending on your credit history and financial situation, you may have trouble getting one. If you have an idea of what your credit score is, you can search for credit cards matching your score, but there are a couple other things you can try, too.

1. Get a Secured Credit Card

Its easy to get a secured credit card, and unlike debit cards and prepaid cards, a secured card reports your use to credit bureaus and allows you to establish a payment and credit history.

Heres how they work: You pay a deposit (say, $500), and that becomes your credit limit. You can use the card as you would a regular credit card, spending within your limit and paying the bill. If you miss a payment, the issuer can take your deposit. Many secured cards carry an annual fee, and some allow you to graduate to a standard credit card, but youll want to explore those possibilities before you sign up for the card.

Secured cards are no different from other financial products in that you should understand how they work before you agree to the terms of use. To learn more about secured cards, heres a list of some of the best available.

2. Piggyback on Someones Credit Card

If your mom, spouse, brother or someone else has a credit card with a great history, you can consider asking them to add you as an authorized user. It sounds simple — and it is, really — but its not the sort of strategy you should choose lightly. This goes for the person youre asking, too, because by adding you as an authorized user, theyll be risking their credit for no benefit other than the warm fuzzies they may feel when they decide to help you out. Warm fuzzies and credit card access are not a fair trade.

This isnt to say you shouldnt try the authorized user route; rather, you should take the opportunity to practice responsible credit card use and form good habits for when you can get a credit card on your own. Another option is to ask for someone to co-sign your credit card, but similar risks apply in this situation. Again, youre asking a lot of the other person.

Credit-Building Tips for Credit Card Users

If you already have a credit card, you can consider these few simple strategies that can help you build good credit.

1. Increase Your Credit Limit, Not Your Spending

If you have a solid history of paying your credit card bills, your issuer may grant you a credit limit increase. Often, you have to ask for the increase, and it will most likely result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, but your improved credit utilization rate will eventually outweigh the short-term drop in score (a result of the inquiry).

Heres the thing: You have to use a smaller percentage of your credit limit in order for this strategy to work. The easiest way to do that is by keeping your spending habits the same as your credit limit rises. If your limit was so low that you have flexibility to increase your spending, you can still improve your credit score — just make sure youre using a smaller share of your overall credit limit than you were before you got the higher limit.

2. Set Up Automatic Payments

With everything you have going on in your life, its easy to forget to pay a bill. Unfortunately, your credit score may not be forgiving if this happens, but if you set your credit card payments to automatically withdraw from your checking or savings account every billing period, youll never be late, and you dont have to remember to pay it.

You still need to stay on top of your payment schedule, because if you lose track and arent paying attention to your finances, you may overdraft your bank account, get hit with fees and end up missing the payment anyway.

3. Keep Your Cards Open

Often, your oldest credit card isnt necessarily your favorite, because as you build credit and qualify for cards with better perks, you have an incentive to use those instead. Still, you dont want to close that card and eventually lose the benefit of its old age. You can use the card for a small recurring payment (your streaming video service, a magazine subscription, a membership fee), and youll keep it active without having to spend too much. Set up an automatic payment for the card so you dont forget to pay for that small charge.

4. Make Multiple Payments

If you have a credit card you like to use but dont want to get too close to your credit limit, consider paying the balance several times a cycle. You can pay it after every transaction, if you really want. This way, when the card issuer reports to the credit bureaus, your credit card balance is likely to be much lower than it would if you only paid it once a cycle.

5. Be Patient

If you dont need a new credit card and you want your score to improve, dont apply for credit cards. Inquiries have a small impact on your credit score, but applying for credit sparingly will allow you to avoid losing a few points here and there for unnecessary inquiries.

Even though there are a few ways you can try and accelerate the process, it takes time to build credit. Credit cards can be one of the best ways to do so, and if you commit to using them properly, it can be worth the time you spend strategizing. To learn how your credit card use has helped (or hurt) your credit score, you can look at two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

This article originally appeared on Credit.com. Christine DiGangi covers personal finance for Credit.com. Previously, she managed communications for the Society of Professional Journalists, served as a copy editor of The New York Times News Service and worked as a reporter for the Oregonian and the News Record.

5 Ways Apple Could Spend Its Mountain Of Cash (Instead Of Buybacks)

by Shelton on October 30th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

With $164 billion in cash and equivalents, Apple has three times the reserves of the United States Treasury. (Approximately $100 billion of this lies in overseas accounts, much to the US government’s chagrin.)

On Thursday, activist investor Carl Icahn wrote an open letter to CEO Tim Cook urging for a stock buyback. Apple responded publicly, though in a boilerplate and seemingly uninterested manner, saying that it is always glad to “hear from its shareholders.” Icahn owns some 53 million Apple shares.

But this doesn’t change the fact that Apple is sitting on gobs of cash. Given its propensity for creating innovation and design, Cupertino could rapidly accelerate future product development and improve its own business operations by buying companies doing interesting things. Heres some suggestions for Cook and company:

1. Build a new support system

Getting official Apple support in-store is a choke point for some customers, especially at high-volume locations like the company’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City. Small companies have sprung up to help reduce the burden for both stores and customers, offering unofficial quick fixes for cracked iPhone screens and other hardware problems. One such company, iCracked, will even send a support technician to your house to fix your device while you wait around in your pajamas.

Apple could buy up some of these companies to beef up its support offerings. What would an Apple response to Best Buy’s Geek Squad look like? We bet it’d be pretty cool, and it could be done with just a fraction of Apple’s reserves.

2. Develop proprietary components for its hardware.

Apple and Samsung have a storied, tense relationship, yet Samsung remains a key partner in supplying chips and various innards for Apple gadgets. Apple’s partnership with sapphire manufacturer GT Advanced is up in the air after GT Advanced filed for bankruptcy. What if Apple only needed to depend upon itself for its components?

“As we can see with the GT Advanced situation this past week, it could certainly behoove Apple to move some key component manufacturing fully in-house,” says Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac.com. “With the type of cash they have on hand, they should develop R/D and manufacturing facilities for their own components.”

3. Buy Tesla

There’s a longstanding tradition of speculating what Apple could do in the automotive industry. Considering Teslas attention to detail, sustainability and design, Tesla presents itself as an incredibly appealing partner for the company. But Tesla’s market cap of $31.45 billion also means that Apple could buy it outright, many times over.

In fact, Apple could very nearly afford to buy Ford, Honda and GM all at once, with their market caps of $54.93 billion, $59.05 billion and $51.51 billion, respectively.

4. Become a mobile service provider

Sprint and T-Mobile are at their combined market cap of $47.31 billion, which makes either affordable.

When Apple was initially shopping the iPhone to providers, Verizon was its first choice of carrier. Dealings fell through when the companies couldnt agree on how to handle the hardware. This was at a time when smartphone meant something radically different (and cheaper), and Apple wanted to be able to control the customer experience should things go wrong with a device. Ultimately it was ATamp;T, Apples second choice, to sign on.

Of course, if Apple were its own service provider, then no such compromises would need to be made.

5. Buy the US government

Remember from above: It has three times the money of the US Treasury. It could encompass the operating budget for the entire country, then do so two more times. Heck, it could buy nearly four Lithuanias given that countrys GDP of $42.25 billion.

But of course it would never do this. Thats silly.

Bankruptcy And Your Credit Score

by Shelton on October 29th, 2014

filed under Secured Credit

Typically, a secured credit card will allow you a limit of $500 to $5,000, she says. Use the card carefully, paying it on time every month, to prove you’re able to handle it responsibly. “Keep the balance low and pay it in full,” she advises. “The worst thing you can do, though, is to just pay the minimum because it means you’re just back in debt again!”

While members of the military can access lower-rate secured cards, others need to be very careful, she warns, as predatory lenders abound in this category; she offers a list of recommended secured credit cards on her website, beverlyharzog.com.

Harzog advises carefully timing when you pay bills with these cards, as it can take up to two weeks for the card company to process your payment.The APR youre charged can run as high as 29.9%. Read more at Secured Credit Cards.

2. Pay bills on time. Consistency in handling every form of credit after bankruptcy is key, says Susan Tiffany. “You’re establishing and demonstrating that you are  responsible with this credit.” She strongly suggests using automation and technology to make your bill paying easy. “That way you don’t get into bad habits,” like late or missed payments.

3. Build up your savings. “Establish a savings cushion to avoid using credit for cash flow and emergency savings. After a bankruptcy, I encourage people to beef up their savings. People feel so defeated that any progress is a good start.”

4. Establish a personal relationship with a credit union. Tiffany suggests finding a staffer who can coach you and root for you, to “steer you clear of some of these rocks.”

5. Dont take on much credit. Even though some lenders will eagerly offer you new credit – precisely because you’ve already declared bankruptcy and can’t do so again – hold off, Harzog advises. “You’re feeling pretty terrible at that point. You should really spend 12 to 18 months to get your feet back on the ground. Ideally, you’ll create a long-term plan for the next three to five years.”

6. Consider re-affirming some existing debts. After declaring bankruptcy, you can voluntarily choose to re-affirm (ie continue paying) existing debts, such as an auto loan. “Any loan that is re-paid will help re-establish your credit sooner,” says Mike McLain, senior assistant general counsel for compliance, regulatory affairs, at CUNA. Unlike new credit cards or loans, a prior loan can sometimes be continued at the prior, lower rate, he said. The balance or loan rate might even be lowered.

7. Think about taking out a credit-building loan. “A lot of credit unions offer it, explains Harzog. It’s like an installment loan.” When you feel that you could handle a small loan and pay it back quickly, this kind of loan can help you re-establish credit.

The greatest challenge in re-building one’s credit, says Harzog, is simply being patient. “With every passing year, your bankruptcy will have less impact on your credit score. It does get better! People feel so discouraged.”

“This will take time,” agrees Tiffany. But as you’re improving your situation, you can also be getting better interest rates as you go.”

The Bottom Line

Repairing your credit history is possible. It takes time, consistent re-payment and careful attention to managing every current debt obligation. Beware of predatory lenders and high APRs from new offers of credit. For more information, read Credit Cards For People With Bad Credit.  

Alpha Natural extends secured credit facility and establishes new accounts …

by Shelton on October 29th, 2014

filed under Secured Credit

(Follow @coalguru on Twitter for important updates)

Alpha Natural Resources, Inc, a leading US coal supplier, announced that it has amended and extended its senior secured credit facility and established a new accounts receivable securitization facility, further enhancing the companys long-term financial flexibility.

Mr Frank Wood CFO of Alpha said that The amendment of the senior secured credit facility and the establishment of the new accounts receivable facility solidify our current robust liquidity position while improving our future financial flexibility. These transactions allow us to maintain a liquidity-neutral facility position through June 2016 while extending significant liquidity well into 2017.

Mr Wood said that As of the end of the second quarter this year, Alpha had total liquidity of approximately USD 2.4 billion, consisting of cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities of more than USD 1.4 billion and nearly USD 1.0 billion available under our senior secured credit facility. We are very pleased with the support we received from our lending group in completing these transactions.

The amended senior secured credit facility will have total availability of USD 894 million, reflecting a reduction of 25% for commitments that have been extended through September 30th 2017, with an increased interest rate on borrowings. Of this amount, USD 276 million represents non-extending commitments, which will expire on the previous facility maturity date of June 30th 2016. Thereafter, the total availability under the facility will be USD 618 million.

The new accounts receivable securitization facility provides for up to USD 200 million in standby letters of credit and working capital draws, subject to certain limitations, secured by trade receivables. The borrower under the accounts receivable securitization facility is a special purpose, indirect subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. Funding under the accounts receivable securitization facility is expected to be available until September 2018.

GE Capital, Corporate Finance is serving as administrative agent, a lender and a letter of credit lender.

With both facilities in place, Alpha will have total borrowing and letter of credit capacity of USD 1,094 million through June 2016 and USD 818 million through September 2017.

Source – Strategic Research Institute, Steel Guru

Get latest updates through Twitter Follow @coalguru

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Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Law Lets IRS Seize Citizens’ Cash When No Crime …

by Shelton on October 28th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

Imagine being informed that the Internal Revenue Service has seized your bank account. They don’t accuse you of any crime, they simply acted because your account, used for your small business, has too much money in that was deposited in increments of less than $10,000 – the amount that requires the transaction to be reported to the IRS.

That may sound absurd, but it’s happening across the country.

The New York Times introduces us to Carole Hinders, an Iowa woman who owns a small, cash-only restaurant. Last year she had her checking account, all $33,000 of it, seized by the IRS. Not because she didn’t pay taxes on her business (she did), and not because she was suspected of any crime (she wasn’t), but because “she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.”

How can the IRS do this when not only no crime has been alleged, but none is suspected? The Times reports:

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.

Hinders is not alone. According to the Institute for Justice, the IRS “made 639 seizures in 2012, up from 114 in 2005. Only one in five was prosecuted as a criminal structuring case.”

After being contacted by the Times this week, the IRS said it would change this practice, and switch its focus “on cases where the money is believed to have been acquired illegally or seizure is deemed justified by ‘exceptional circumstances.'”

In a written statement, IRS chief of Criminal Investigations, Richard Weber, said, “This policy update will ensure that CI continues to focus our limited investigative resources on identifying and investigating violations within our jurisdiction that closely align with CI’s mission and key priorities.”

Cash register and cash stolen from Jersey City liquor store, police say

by Shelton on October 28th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

The Reservoir Deli Liquor store on Tonnelle Avenue in the Jersey City Heights was robbed last night of $1,500 cash and the stores cash register, which police valued at $400.

A man in the store approached the counter last night around 7 pm with a bottle of Bacardi Lemon Rum and a Bank of America credit card and asked the 77-year-old store owner for the price of the rum, according to police reports.

As the store owner turned to check the price, the man, who was dressed in black, started knocking items off the counter, reports said.

The man then snatched the cash register, ran out the store, and jumped into a 4-door silver Volkswagen that sped away from the scene, reports said, noting two other men and a woman were inside the vehicle.

There was no indication from reports that a weapon was used, or that the credit card, which was left behind, revealed any information about the thief.

Anyone with information about this incident, is asked to call the Jersey City Police Department confidential tip line at (201) 547-JAIL.

Drake — Explodes in Anger … Hurls Thousands in Cash

by Shelton on October 27th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

Drake threw a whole lot of cash away Sunday … but he wasnt making it rain — the rapper was rushing into a club he had just left in a fury, looking like he was ready for a fight.

Drake was celebrating his birthday at Club Stadium in Washington DC Saturday night/early Sunday … and we dont know why, but Drizzy was carrying what looked like thousands of bucks.

Some people inside the club claimed they saw someone punch a member of Drakes crew … which could have triggered his temper.

Drakes posse was famously involved in a blow-out with Chris Browns crewat WIP. nightclub in 2012, so it wouldnt be the first time.

Someone in Drakes entourage was heads up enough to retrieve most of the loot.

Targa Resouces increases senior notes offering to $800 million

by Shelton on October 27th, 2014

filed under Secured Credit

From seed to $1 billion unicorn, VC-backed companies holding off on next step

by Shelton on October 27th, 2014

filed under Personal Funding

The numbers of venture-backed companies staying at both the seed stage and $1 billion unicorn stage of development have sharply increased, a pair of reports said Friday.

The Wall Street Journal reported that there were at least 49 US venture-capital-backed companies with a valuation of $1 billion or more going into this week, a sharp increase from the 28 at that valuation level when 2013 ended.

That tops the dot-com peak number of 10 unicorns in 2000.

But the IPO market hasnt seen a similarly big jump in the number of billion-dollar companies going public. The Journal said there have been seven so far this year, including Alibabas record $25 billion IPO last month, about the same pace as usual.

A choppy IPO market, increasing numbers of deep-pocketed late-stage investors and a reluctance to go through the increased regulatory scrutiny that comes with going public have contributed to the situation, the Journal said.

Los Altos-based cloud storage and collaboration company Box is a notable example of a company wary of the choppy markets and able to raise enough late-stage money to keep operating without going public. It had planned to raise up to $250 million through an IPO in the spring, but raised $150 million in private money instead. The company has raised more than half a billion dollars since it was founded in 2005 and is valued at about $2.4 billion.

Meanwhile, the number of seed-funded startups raising what used to be considered Series A-size amounts of money has mushroomed, database research firm CB Insights reports.

Seven times more startups are now raising seed financing exceeding $3 million before doing their Series A fundings, compared with four years ago.

And six times as many startups have raised more than $6 million while still calling themselves seed stage.

Part of this may be attributed simply to inflation in funding levels and valuations, reported at all levels in the venture ecosystem.

But some say it doesnt matter when a founder decides to officially raise Series A money. That is determined by the amount and stage of development reached by the company.

If you have a product that is working in the marketplace, have raised money for a venture firm and youre bringing in serious revenue, you arent seed any more, they say.

No competent VC is actually fooled when you show up after raising $6M in seed financing and say youre now raising an A! Marc Andreessen tweeted in a recent discussion of the phenomenon.

Mark Suster of Upfront Capital wrote that it is wrong to get wrapped up in the semantics of seed vs. A round, since it costs much less to start a company than it used to. Startups are progressing much farther in their development on their first few million dollars than they used to.

I think an easier definition is first institutional capital which is what most A-round VCs think about what their personal funding strategies are. They want to be early and first, Suster wrote, adding that pretending to be doing a Series A after you already have VC backing probably sends a negative signal about the health and progress of your business.

Stop sweating the silly optics, he recommends.

Click here to subscribe to TechFlash Silicon Valley, the free daily email newsletter about the regions founders and funders.

Cromwell Schubarth is the Senior Technology Reporter at the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Caught On Video: Thief Steals Cash, Gift Cards From Tustin Wedding

by Shelton on October 26th, 2014

filed under Business Loans

TUSTIN (CBSLA.com) — Authorities Thursday asked for the public’s help in identifying a man they say crashed a wedding this weekend in Orange County and made off with some of the couple’s cash and gift cards.

Surveillance video captured the man entering the Tustin Ranch Golf Club about 4:45 pm Saturday and casing the area near a wedding, Tustin police Lt. Robert Wright said.

A suspect approached a table, which had a number of gifts on it. One of those gifts was a box that contained gift cards, cash, and checks, Wright told KCAL9s Stacey Butler.

As the wedding reception was underway, the lieutenant says the suspect removed his jacket and concealed the box in question. He then walked out of the facility, hiding the box, Wright said.

Police said the couple was unaware the box had been taken until after the wedding.

They suspect the thief stole $1,000 in cash and gift cards. He was described by police as a Middle Eastern man 25 to 35 years old. He was seen wearing a black suit with a gray shirt.

We have confirmed that the suspect was not a member of the wedding party or guest at the wedding, and the golf course has been cooperating with us and he is not an employee of the golf course either, Wright said.

Anyone with information as to the man’s identity was asked to call detectives at (714) 573-3250.