How to get the Southwest Companion Pass

#If you’re itching to voyage around the country and to bring a partner along on your adventures, the Southwest Companion Pass is an incredible deal. Believe it or not, with the Companion Pass, you can bring a friend or family member with you for free on every Southwest flight for up to two years.

You may have heard the news: On Jan. 1, 2020, Southwest officially boosted the points requirement for the Companion Pass to 125,000 points. This bump made the Companion Pass harder to earn for many less frequent flyers, though not impossible

With travel interruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, earning the Companion Pass for 2021 might seem completely out of reach. Luckily, Southwest is offering relief to those whose canceled plans throttled their hopes of achieving this coveted perk. Southwest has now twice extended statuses for Southwest Companion Pass members. Members who received an extension of their earned Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021, will have their benefits extended for another six months through Dec. 31, 2021. Additionally, Rapid Rewards members with an account opened by Dec. 31, 2020, are getting a complimentary boost of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status. This shortcut, when combined with alternative ways to earn Companion Pass qualifying-points, means the benefit is still achievable in the current environment.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a special benefit for elite members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards programs. Once you earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points or 100 qualifying flights in a year, you can designate a companion to bring with you for free (except for taxes and fees) on any Southwest flight that you purchase – with either cash or points. The earlier in the year that you earn the Companion Pass, the better because it’s good through the remainder of the year and the year after that.

The threshold for earning the Companion Pass is steep – amounting to thousands of dollars per month in airfare or multiple flights per week. However, you don’t need to be a rabid Southwest flyer to earn the pass. In the following guide, we’ll delve into the details of the Southwest Companion Pass and shortcuts to earning it.

The best card for Southwest flyers

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card

Why should you get it?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is by far the best value for a frequent Southwest flyer, thanks to its $75 travel credit and 7,500-point annual bonus. Plus, the sign-up bonus of up to 80,000 points can help you toward the Southwest Companion pass.

Learn more

More things to know:

  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 in the first 9 months
  • 7,500 bonus points each year after your card anniversary
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases made with your card

Southwest Companion Pass rules

  • You must earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights each year to qualify.
  • Qualifying points include: revenue flights on Southwest, credit card points, base points earned through Southwest partners.
  • Qualifying points don’t include: purchased points, points transferred from other members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, e-rewards, e-miles, Valued Opinions, Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points and partner bonus points.
  • You should designate a companion at least 21 days in advance to receive a Companion Pass card before your flight. You’ll need the card to board your flight, and it’s nontransferable.
  • You may change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year.
  • Once you qualify, you can begin booking flights with your Companion Pass immediately, and it is good through the remainder of the year and the next calendar year (up to two years, depending on when you qualify).
  • You must pay for your flight with cash or points before you book your companion’s pass.
  • Your companion can’t fly without you – they must be booked on the same flight and dates. If you cancel your ticket, their ticket will also be canceled. Also, he/she will be charged for the fare if you don’t make the flight.
  • You have to pay for your ticket to bring a companion (i.e., you can’t use a companion pass to fly with a partner also using a companion pass).

How to get the Southwest Companion Pass

You may be surprised to learn that Southwest flights aren’t the only way to earn points. In fact, there are faster ways to rack up the points that you need for the pass. Here are some of your best options:

Credit card bonuses

The best way to earn a lot of Rapid Rewards points all at once is to sign up for a Rapid Rewards credit card and earn the card’s sign-up bonus.

However, you should be aware of Chase’s rules on applying for Southwest credit cards before you hit submit. Due to Chase’s 5/24 rule, your application likely be denied if you’ve opened more than five credit cards (with any issuer) in the past 24 months. You can’t earn the bonus on a particular Southwest card if you’ve earned a bonus with that card in the past two years. Also, you’re prohibited from owning two consumer cards at once – which means you can’t sign up for, say, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card to earn two bonuses in a single year.

However, you can own a consumer card and a business card at the same time. If you can qualify for a business card (which is not as difficult as you may think – any sort of side income may qualify you), signing up for a business card along with another Rapid Rewards card will give you most (or all) of the points you need to earn the Companion Pass – you can earn up to 180,000 points with two cards combined.

Sign-up bonus
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months; plus 30,000 points if you spend $10,000 in first 9 months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months; plus 30,000 points if you spend $10,000 in first 9 months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months; plus 30,000 points if you spend $10,000 in first 9 months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card 60,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card 70,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months; plus 30,000 points if you spend $25,000 in first 6 months

Note, Southwest changes the sign-up bonuses on its cards frequently throughout the year. Before you sign up for a particular card, you should check the history of the bonus on that card to make sure it’s at its peak.

Referral bonuses are another great way to rapidly accumulate points toward the Companion Pass. Chase offers 10,000 points per each friend who is approved for a Southwest card, up to 50,000 points per year. Even better, Chase recently updated its refer-a-friend offer for Southwest so that you earn a bonus on any card that your friend chooses to apply for, including the business cards, even if you don’t own that particular card. You can log into the Chase site to grab your Refer-a-Friend link to share with friends, family, and of course social media.

Southwest flights

Besides credit card bonuses and referral bonuses, flying frequently on Southwest Airlines is your next best bet for stacking up Rapid Rewards points. Depending on the fare, you can earn between 6 and 12 points per each dollar that you spend on Southwest airfare. You would need to spend between $9,167 and $18,333 on airfare to earn enough points for the pass.

Rapid Rewards points earned
Wanna Get Away fares 6 points per dollar
Anytime fares 10 points per dollar
Business Select fares 12 points per dollar

Rapid Rewards partners

Southwest has several travel and shopping partners through which you can earn Rapid Rewards points. For instance, many of Southwest’s car rental partners offer 600 Rapid Rewards points per rental. Also, the Southwest hotels portal is a great way to earn up to 10,000 Southwest points per night – all of which qualify for the Companion Pass.

Credit card spend

Your spend with the Southwest credit cards also earns points that count toward the Companion Pass. Most of the Southwest cards offer the same earning rate: two points per dollar on Southwest purchases (on top of your base point earnings), Rapid Rewards hotel purchases and car rental partner purchases, and one point per dollar on everything else.

Unfortunately, the overall earning rate with most Southwest cards is very low – amounting to around 1.08-percent per dollar for the average cardholder. At that rate, you’d have to spend around $101,851 on average on a Southwest card to earn the pass just through credit card spending – not a very realistic amount for most cardholders. Still, using your Southwest credit card is a good way to add incrementally to your earnings, especially for purchases that earn double points.

Additionally, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card has a slightly higher earning rate than the rest of the airlines co-branded offerings. The Performance card earns 3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, 2 points per dollar on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. That means small business owners who spend a significant amount in these areas can get a bit more value.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program is another good way to add incrementally to your point balance. You can earn up to two Rapid Rewards points per dollar by eating at qualified restaurants.

This is an especially valuable option for those who cannot travel right now due to current restrictions. You’ll still earn points for purchases made with qualifying restaurants when you order takeout or delivery from the restaurant itself.

Rapid Rewards shopping portal

You can earn Rapid Rewards points that stack on top of your credit card points (as well as other deals and discounts) by clicking on a retailer’s link through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. The Rapid Rewards site includes many major retailers, such as Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond. The number of points that you earn varies quite a bit by retailer, but tends to range between one to four points per dollar. For instance, Bass Prop Shops is currently offering four Rapid Rewards points per dollar on online purchases. At that rate, you’d have to spend around $27,500 to earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points.

Earning the Companion Pass on a moderate budget

While 125,000 points seems like a daunting number, when you add all these earning opportunities together, it’s actually quite feasible to earn the Companion Pass with a moderate amount of spend.

For instance, consider you earn the up to 80,000-point sign-up bonus and refer two friends to Southwest credit cards. Those two actions alone can earn you 100,000 points – a significant portion of the way toward the pass. To earn the other 25,000 required for the pass, you can leverage high-earning categories like Southwest flights and purchases in the shopping portal – putting all spend on your credit card to ensure you earn as much as possible.

Additionally, you can maximize your Southwest points by using your Southwest card on planned, recurring payments like select gas purchases or certain utility bills.

How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

Register your companion

As soon as you qualify, go to the Southwest website and designate a companion for your next flight. Make sure you register your companion well in advance of your flight – your companion needs the pass to board the plane, and it takes up to 21 days to mail. You aren’t stuck with one flying companion – you can change your designated companion up to three times per year. (You can do this online or instantly over the phone.)

Book a flight

To book a free flight for your companion, first, go to the Southwest Airlines website and book your own airfare with cash or points. Once your ticket is booked, you can add your companion to your reservation by clicking on the “Add Companion” option on Southwest.com. (Or you can call Southwest’s reservations line to book your flight and have a companion added over the phone.)

Check in at the airport

You must bring your Companion Pass to the airport to check in. You’ll be asked to present a photo ID for yourself and your companion. Be sure not to stand your partner up at the last minute – if you don’t show up at the airport, your companion will be charged the full price of the fare.

Tips for earning the Southwest Companion Pass faster

  • Sign up for credit bonuses when they hit a peak – Wait until the bonus on a particular card hits a peak, and then apply for it.
  • Sign up for two Southwest credit cards – Consider signing up for both a Southwest business and consumer card within the same year to earn all the points you need from sign-up bonuses.
  • Look for special deals – If you keep an eagle eye on the Rapid Rewards program, you can find some incredible deals that can allow you to get a large influx of points or even earn the pass with a much lower threshold. For example, Southwest sometimes offers additional points on airfare purchases. Also, in 2017, Southwest ran a promotion in California that allowed residents there to immediately qualify for the pass if they signed up for a Southwest credit card.
  • Take advantage of all your point-earning opportunities – Stick to flying Southwest Airlines (even for business trips) and make every car rental, credit card expense, online shopping experience and hotel stay count toward earning the pass.

Bottom line

That Southwest Companion Pass is in closer reach than you think, even while travel is currently restricted. The points boost for Rapid Reward members in 2020, plus earning options like the online shopping portal and dining program, keep the perk within reach for Southwest flyers. By keeping a keen eye on credit card sign-up bonuses and taking advantage of all the earning opportunities, many Southwest enthusiasts successfully earn the pass each year.

See related: What are Southwest points worth?, Southwest credit cards, Best ways to earn Southwest points, Best ways to redeem Southwest points, Southwest Airlines partners, Southwest A-list status, How to book a Southwest Rapid Rewards flight, Rapid Rewards Shopping guide

Source: creditcards.com

5 Tips for First-Time Commercial Real Estate Investors

Are you thinking about taking the plunge and investing in your first commercial real-estate deal? Even if you’re a veteran investor in residential properties –…

The post 5 Tips for First-Time Commercial Real Estate Investors first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

A Guide to Rental Reimbursement Coverage

  • Car Insurance

You’re involved in an accident, your car is wrecked, and your insurer has stepped in to cover the damages. All is well, and you only have the deductible to worry about, but what happens before the car is fixed? How do you continue to get to work every day and take the kids to school when your car is in the repair shop for the next few days or weeks?

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That’s where rental car reimbursement coverage steps in. If you have this optional coverage on your car insurance policy, you won’t need to worry.

Keep reading to learn how this coverage option works.

Rental Car Reimbursement vs Rental Car Insurance

Before we go any further, it’s worth clarifying the potential confusion surrounding rental car coverage and rental car reimbursement coverage. The former includes damage waivers, property insurance, and liability coverage and protects you when you are driving a rental car.

You will be offered this type of insurance when you rent a car and can also get it through your current insurance policy or through your credit card, bank account or travel insurance.

As for rental car reimbursement, it is designed to cover the costs of renting a vehicle when your car is in the shop or has been stolen.

Rental car reimbursement only applies if your insurance company is paying for the repairs and those repairs are covered by your insurance policy. It is a coverage option that is typically only available to policyholders who have collision coverage or comprehensive coverage insurance.

What Does Rental Car Reimbursement Cover?

Rental car reimbursement is designed to cover the cost of a rental car, but there are limits. Most insurance companies will only cover you for 30 days and many also set a daily limit, often between $50 and $100. This means that you can’t claim for costs above this or for a rental period that extends beyond it.

In some states and in some situations, you may not even need to add rental reimbursement coverage to your policy as the at-fault driver could be responsible for your rental costs. In the event of a car accident caused by a fully-insured driver, their liability insurance may cover you for transportation costs, while also paying for the damage done to you and your vehicle.

However, there is a coverage limit that means they may not be liable for all the costs you pay to the rental car company. In such cases, having rental car reimbursement coverage on your policy will cover the difference and ensure you’re not out of pocket.

How Much Does it Cost?

The cost of rental reimbursement insurance differs from state to state and provider to provider. Your costs will also be higher if you are deemed to be a high-risk driver and have a history of at-fault accidents and insurance claims. Generally, however, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3 or $4 a month extra to $15 or $20 a month extra.

It’s not a huge amount because the cover provided is very limited. For instance, at $50 a day over 30 days, the insurer’s liability is just $1,500, which is a fraction of the amount they can expect to lose with other coverage options.

How Does the Process Work?

You’re involved in a minor accident and your car is taken to the body shop, now what? If you have rental coverage, you can do one of the following:

1. Pay for it Yourself

When you pay for the vehicle yourself, you have more choice about what car you rent and from where you rent it, and you can also get it as soon as you need it. If you choose this option, just make sure you keep a record of all the costs so you can report these to the insurer and get your money back.

By choosing this method, you have more control and providing you have cover, you shouldn’t encounter any issues when seeking reimbursement. Get the rental vehicle you want, drive it off the lot, and wait for your car to be fixed and your expenses to be covered.

2. Let Your Insurance Company Do It

The second option, and the best option, is to go through your insurance company. They will contact the rental company on your behalf and deal with all of the red tape, ensuring you only get a car that you are fully covered for and providing you with all the necessary details at the same time.

By going through your insurer, you can avoid the hassle and they may even help you to get a better deal. 

It’s worth noting, however, that your insurer will not pay for additional rental car coverage like damage waivers. But as noted already, your auto policy may already provide you with the cover that you need.

Should You Get Additional Car Rental Reimbursement Coverage?

On average, you will use rental car coverage just once in a 10-year period, and you may only need it for a few days at a time. To determine whether this additional coverage option is right for you, simply calculate how much it will cost you on a monthly basis and then compare this to how much it is likely to offer you.

For instance, let’s assume that you are charged $10 a month for this additional option. This means you will pay $120 a year or $1,200 over ten years. Assuming you’re being offered a maximum of $50 per day for 30 days, this means the benefits are capped at $1,500.

If you’re paying $15 a month instead, that’s $180 a year, $1,800 a decade, and more than you will get back. And, in both cases, we’re assuming that you rent a car for the full 30 days at the maximum allowed price, which is somewhat rare. As a result, you can probably overlook this additional coverage option when those are the prices quoted.

Bottom Line: Choosing Insurance Coverage

From car rental coverage and rental car reimbursement to roadside assistance, new car replacement and more, there is no shortage of options for the average driver. 

But as tempting as it is to add all of these options to your auto insurance policy in the knowledge that you’ll be fully covered, the costs can spiral out of control very quickly. You could find yourself spending an excessive amount of money unnecessarily, and at a time when everyone is watching their budgets, that’s never a good thing.

Think about rental car reimbursement carefully and reject it if you don’t need it, even if it is only $10 or $20 extra a month. 

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

All About Car Loan Amortization

Car Loan Amortization – SmartAsset

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These days, it can take a long time to pay off a car loan. On average, car loans come with terms lasting for more than five years. Paying down a car loan isn’t that different from paying down a mortgage. In both cases, a large percentage of your initial payments go toward paying interest. If you don’t understand why, you might need a crash course on a concept called amortization.

Find out now: How much house can I afford?

Car Loan Amortization: The Basics

Amortization is just a fancy way of saying that you’re in the process of paying back the money you borrowed from your lender. In order to do that, you’re required to make a payment every month by a certain due date. With each payment, your money is split between paying off interest and paying off your principal balance (or the amount that your lender agreed to lend you).

What you’ll soon discover is that your car payments – at least in the beginning – cover quite a bit of interest. That’s how amortization works. Over time, your lender will use a greater share of your car payments to reduce your principal loan balance (and a smaller percentage to pay for interest) until you’ve completely paid off the vehicle you purchased.

Not all loans amortize. For example, applying for a credit card is akin to applying for a loan. While your credit card statement will include a minimum payment amount, there’s no date set in advance for when that credit card debt has to be paid off.

With amortizing loans – like car loans and home loans – you’re expected to make payments on a regular basis according to something called an amortization schedule. Your lender determines in advance when your loan must be paid off, whether that’s in five years or 30 years.

The Interest on Your Car Loan

Now let’s talk about interest. You’re not going to be able to borrow money to finance a car purchase without paying a fee (interest). But there’s a key difference between simple interest and compound interest.

When it comes to taking out a loan, simple interest is the amount of money that’s charged on top of your principal. Compound interest, however, accounts for the fee that accrues on top of your principal balance and on any unpaid interest.

Related Article: How to Make Your First Car Purchase Happen

As of April 2016, 60-month new car loans have rates that are just above 3%, on average. Rates for used cars with 36-month terms are closer to 4%.

The majority of car loans have simple interest rates. As a borrower, that’s good news. If your interest doesn’t compound, you won’t have to turn as much money over to your lender. And the sooner you pay off your car loan, the less interest you’ll pay overall. You can also speed up the process of eliminating your debt by making extra car payments (if that’s affordable) and refinancing to a shorter loan term.

Car Loan Amortization Schedules 

An amortization schedule is a table that specifies just how much of each loan payment will cover the interest owed and how much will cover the principal balance. If you agreed to pay back the money you borrowed to buy a car in five years, your auto loan amortization schedule will include all 60 payments that you’ll need to make. Beside each payment, you’ll likely see the total amount of paid interest and what’s left of your car loan’s principal balance.

While the ratio of what’s applied towards interest versus the principal will change as your final payment deadline draws nearer, your car payments will probably stay the same from month to month. To view your amortization schedule, you can use an online calculator that’ll do the math for you. But if you’re feeling ambitious, you can easily make an auto loan amortization schedule by creating an Excel spreadsheet.

To determine the percentage of your initial car payment that’ll pay for your interest, just multiply the principal balance by the periodic interest rate (your annual interest rate divided by 12). Then you’ll calculate what’s going toward the principal by subtracting the interest amount from the total payment amount.

For example, if you have a $25,000 five-year car loan with an annual interest rate of 3%, your first payment might be $449. Out of that payment, you’ll pay $62.50 in interest and reduce your principal balance by $386.50 ($449 – $62.50). Now you only have a remaining balance of $24,613.50 to pay off, and you can continue your calculations until you get to the point where you don’t owe your lender anything.

Related Article: The Best Cities for Electric Cars

Final Word

Auto loan amortization isn’t nearly as complicated as it might sound. It requires car owners to make regular payments until their loans are paid off. Since lenders aren’t required to hand out auto amortization schedules, it might be a good idea to ask for one or use a calculator before taking out a loan. That way, you’ll know how your lender will break down your payments.

Update: Have more financial questions? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/OSORIOartist, ©iStock.com/studio-pure, ©iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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A complete guide to airline companion passes

American Airlines Companion Certificate

American Airlines offers two Companion Certificate options, depending on which credit card you have. The CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® offers a Companion Certificate that lets you purchase one domestic round-trip main cabin ticket for a $99 fee, plus $21.60 to $43.20 in taxes and fees. The AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® (no longer open to new applications) lets you purchase tickets for up to two guests for $99 each, plus taxes and fees.

How do you qualify for the Companion Certificate?

You will receive a Companion Certificate each year that you spend $30,000 or more and renew your card membership.

How long is the certificate valid?

Once issued, the Companion Certificate will be valid for one year.

British Airways Travel Together Ticket

With the Travel Together Ticket, when you book a flight on a British Airways flight originating in and returning to the U.S., you’ll receive a second seat for a companion on the same flight and in the same cabin. You will only be responsible for the taxes, fees and carrier charges; however, those charges can range from $682 to $1,250 per adult.

How do you qualify for the Travel Together Ticket?

To qualify, you must spend $30,000 on your British Airways Visa Signature® Card within a 12-month period, starting on Jan. 1 and ending on Dec. 31. For example, if you opened your card account in June 2020, you have until Dec. 31, 2020 to reach the spend requirement for that year.

How long is the Travel Together Ticket valid?

The Travel Together ticket is valid for 24 months from the date of issue.

Delta SkyMiles Companion Certificate

The Delta SkyMiles Companion Certificate lets a companion fly with you on eligible round-trip domestic flights. You will be responsible for taxes and fees of no more than $75 for round-trip domestic flights.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve® American Express Card cardholders can earn one domestic first class, Delta Comfort+ or main cabin companion certificate each year.

How do you qualify for the Delta Companion Certificate?

You will receive a Companion Certificate every year that you renew your card membership. The certificate will automatically be issued to your SkyMiles account following your renewal.

How long is the certificate valid?

Once the certificate is issued, it will be valid for the remainder of the year, until your next renewal date.

Hawaiian Airlines companion discount

Hawaiian Airlines cardholders receive a one-time companion discount of 50 percent off a round-trip coach ticket between Hawaii and the Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines.

Additionally, primary cardholders are eligible for an annual $100 discount off one coach companion ticket for round-trip travel between Hawaii and the Mainland after each account anniversary.

How do you qualify for Hawaiian Airlines discount?

The one-time 50 percent discount will automatically be added to your HawaiianMiles account when you are approved for a Hawaiian Airlines card, while the $100 discount will automatically be added each year on your account anniversary.

How long is the discount valid?

The one-time 50 percent discount is valid for 13 months after opening your credit card account, while the annual $100 discount is valid for 12 months after each account anniversary.

Which cards help you qualify?
  • Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® (50 percent and $100 discounts)
  • Hawaiian Airlines® Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard® (50 percent and $100 discount)
  • Hawaiian Airlines® Business Mastercard® (50 percent discount)

Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare

Alaska Airlines gives cardholders two ways to save on flights: the annual Famous Companion Fare offer and a generous sign-up bonus.

New Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card members can earn 40,000 bonus miles and a Famous Companion Fare, which lets them purchase one round-trip coach companion fare on Alaska Airlines starting at $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22) for spending $2,000 in the first 90 days. For a limited time, new cardholders will also earn a $100 statement credit for meeting the same spend requirements. Additionally, eligible Alaska Airlines cardholders will earn a Famous Companion Fare each year on their account anniversary.

How do you qualify for the Famous Companion Fare?

To qualify for the Famous Companion Fare, you must be an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® or Alaska Airlines Visa® Business cardholder. As part of the introductory offer, you much spend $2,000 in the first 90 days to receive a companion fare. You will automatically receive the companion fare each year on your account anniversary.

Travel must be booked on alaskaair.com.

How long is the fare valid?

The Famous Companion Fare is valid from the date of issue until your next account anniversary.

Lufthansa companion ticket

Miles & More World Elite Mastercard cardholders get one economy class companion ticket on Lufthansa Airlines after their first purchase, as well as an annual companion ticket each year after that. You will be responsible for taxes and surcharges.

How do you qualify for the Lufthansa companion ticket?

As the primary cardholder, you will receive an economy companion ticket when you make your first purchase using your Miles & More Mastercard. Each year after that, you will receive a companion ticket on your account opening anniversary, as long as your account remains open and in good standing.

To book the companion ticket, you must call Miles & More Companion Ticket Service at 866-461-5399.

How long is the companion ticket valid?

The Lufthansa companion ticket is valid from the date of issue until your next account anniversary.

Which cards help you qualify?
Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®

Which companion pass is right for you?

The right companion pass for you depends on a number of factors, including how much you charge each year on your credit card, how often you travel and where you plan to fly. For example, if you don’t want to charge a large amount, a companion pass that’s automatically issued each year on your credit card anniversary – such as Delta SkyMiles, Alaska Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines – will be your best bet.

But if you travel several times per year with your companion, the Southwest Companion Pass offers the best option – as long as you can earn 125,000 points within a calendar year and you live in or near a city that Southwest Airlines services.

Whichever one you choose, companion passes and fares offer a great opportunity to cut the cost of traveling for two.

See related: How to get the Southwest Companion Pass, Earn sign-up bonus miles with the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards

The Bank of America content of this post was last updated on March 20, 2020.

Source: creditcards.com

What are first-time homebuyers looking for?

Today’s first-time home buyers are a unique bunch. They are typically millennials, budget-conscious, and looking for smaller and less expensive homes. Many have been renting for a long time — longer than they wanted to — and when they get to the home buying stage, they’re excited and ready to go.

Here are four key things that today’s first-time home buyers are looking for.

Great photos: Millennials do most things online, including shopping for a home. To attract first-time home buyers, your listing needs to include a good number of high-quality photos. Before bringing in a photographer, consider completing cosmetic upgrades to improve the home’s aesthetic.

Small spaces: These days, first-time buyers tend to be OK with less square footage, as long as the home feels functional and flexible. Staging a smaller home with multi-use items, such as a fold-out bed and hideaway storage, can create a sense of efficiency and potential.

Be nice: For first-time buyers, the home buying process often feels very personal. Overly aggressive or dishonest tactics are likely to drive them off. On the other hand, simple gestures like being flexible during showings are a reliable way to generate good will and soothe nerves.

Eco-friendly features: Energy-efficient appliances, smart thermostats and solar panels tend to appeal to millennial first-time buyers. They’re savvy to the cost savings these technologies bring, and tend to be drawn to them as an easy way to reduce their overall carbon footprint.

Source: century21.com

2020 Financial Crisis Auto Loan Relief

  • Car Insurance
  • Coronavirus

Car manufacturers have been feeling the strain during the financial crisis. There are fewer cars on the road, workers in the factories, and consumers willing to spend, and as a result, the automobile industry has been devastated.

Find your best rate on Car Insurance!

Attention: Still Open During the Financial Crisis…

Tip: Act now to see if you qualify for lower rates!

Compare free personalized quotes from the nation’s top providers.

But manufacturers and showrooms are fighting back, finding ways to encourage consumers to buy and to make life easier for the ones that already have. In this guide, we’ll look at the ways that auto lenders are helping consumers hit by the crisis and the ways that manufacturers are encouraging more drivers to purchase.

Financial Crisis Auto Relief: Manufacturers

Automobile manufacturers saw their profits free-fall in March 2020 and that followed into April, with suggestions that the chaos will progress as the year (and the pandemic that has gripped it so fiercely) continues. They are struggling and their customers are struggling as well.

Over 700,000 Americans lost their job in March and unemployment is set to rise to levels that haven’t been seen for years. To make matters work, the country’s 9.5 million+ self-employed workers have seen their incomes half. 

As a result, many are struggling with their debts and finding it harder to meet auto loan payments. To lend a helping hand, many of the world’s biggest manufacturers have established auto loan relief programs:

Ford

Ford announced its response to the crisis towards the end of March. Known as the Built to Lend a Hand program, it offers up to 6 months payments on a brand-new Ford and applies to all models from 2019 and 2020.

As soon as consumers sign up, they will be given 3 months of payments from Ford, while an additional 3 months can be deferred as per the customer’s request. The customer can choose to defer these payments as and when they want, but they must get their auto loan through the Ford Credit program to apply.

Hyundai

South Korean manufacturer, Hyundai, was one of the first to offer an auto loan relief program. South Korea was one of the hardest-hit countries in the early stages of the virus and this led to the major automobile brand offering a relief program in the middle of March.

Known as the Assurance Job Loss Protection, this program first appeared following the 2008 recession and has been revived for the recent pandemic. 

As part of this auto loan relief program, consumers who bought or borrowed a car after March 14 can have up to 6 payments made by Hyundai. They can also request payment deferment that lasts for up to 90 days.

The Assurance Job Loss Protection program is set to run until April 30 and applies to everyone who purchases a Hyundai through eligible finance programs. It also extends to Genesis, the luxury division of Hyundai Motors that is responsible for new vehicles such as the 2020 Genesis G90.

If the pandemic continues to grow in scale and severity, the program may be prolonged, although only time will tell.

Nissan

Nissan is following in the footsteps of many major creditors and lenders by working with customers on a case by case basis. If you’re feeling the strain of the crisis, whether because you’ve lost some or all of your income or your expenses have increased, you can contact them and request some relief.

For borrowers struggling to meet monthly payments, Nissan offers deferred payments, but only if hardship can be proved. You likely won’t be offered anything just because you ask for it and must show that your financial situation is worse now than it was before the financial crisis.

The same applies to all Infiniti car owners, which is Nissan’s luxury brand.

Kia

Kia announced that all 0% APR borrowers could defer payments for up to four months. Borrowers who don’t qualify for this can still request deferment of up to 30 days on 3 different occasions.

However, as with Nissan and many other providers, borrowers need to prove that they are experiencing hardship to be offered this auto loan relief.

General Motors

GM has seen some pretty hefty losses during the financial crisis, and this is despite the fact that it began the year on a high note, making noticeable gains that were all but wiped out in the first couple weeks of March.

GM is offering a few different options to keep consumers happy and to ensure cars are still driven out of the showroom. If you already have a finance program with General Motors, and you’re experiencing hardship, you can contact GM directly, tell them what you’re going through, and get assistance.

The GM OnStar program has also been activated for all current owners. This program offers 24/7 emergency assistance and can help you get to a hospital in your time of need.

If you need a new car, you can get 0% APR for up to 84 months on most GM manufactured vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler is another brand that began 2020 with a bang and then quickly suffered a substantial slump. To counteract this, it has improved its online offerings, allowing all consumers to purchase a brand-new vehicle online and to benefit from improved financing offers when they do.

In addition, Fiat Chrysler is assisting current owners by making it easy for them to pay their bills.

If you have a car made by this leading manufacturer and you’re struggling to make payments, contact them directly, tell them about your financial hardship, and they may offer to help you with deferred payments and other solutions.

Financial Crisis Auto Relief: Alternative Options

Contrary to what you might think, lenders are not desperate to get their hands on your collateral. The best outcome for them is that you meet your payments and they get every penny of the vehicle’s value along with the interest.

If you default and they are forced to repossess, they need to pay for the repossession, deal with the extra paperwork and hassle, and eventually sell the car for much less than it is worth. They can still chase you for what you owe, but they know they probably won’t get it, making repossession something that lenders are keen to avoid.

When you’re struggling to make your payments, be honest with them, lay it all on the line, and find a compromise. They will probably be a lot more forgiving than you expect, especially during the crisis, when everyone is more understanding and willing to help.

Unfortunately, you don’t have many other debt relief options when it comes to auto loans, as it doesn’t make sense to do a balance transfer and debt settlement simply doesn’t work here. But if you contact your lender, they’ll help you find a solution.

You can think about returning the vehicle, as well. When you lose your job and your income, and you no longer need to drive several miles to and from work every day, what’s the point of owning a car that costs you tens of thousands of dollars and leaves you with a substantial debt?

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car? – SmartAsset

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The sad thing about cars is that like boats and diamond rings, they’re depreciating assets. As soon as you drive yours off the lot, it immediately begins losing value. Some people are lucky enough to live somewhere with a reliable public transportation system. And others can bike to work. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, however, a car isn’t something you can put off buying.

Check out our investment calculator. 

If you’re preparing to purchase a new or used vehicle, you might be wondering, how much should I spend on a car? We’ll answer that question and reveal ways to make sure you’re not overpaying when you buy your vehicle.

The True Cost of Buying a Car

Next to buying a house, buying a car is likely one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. And if you want a quality vehicle that isn’t going to break down, you’re probably going to have to pay a pretty penny for a new ride. The average cost of a brand new car was about $33,543 in 2015, compared to $18,800 for a used one.

When you buy a car, of course, you’re paying for more than just the vehicle itself. Besides the fee you’ll pay for completing a car sales contract (known as a documentation fee), you might have to pay sales tax. Then there are license and registration fees, which vary by state. In Georgia, for example, you’ll pay a $20 registration fee every year versus the $101 that drivers pay annually in Illinois.

The amount you pay up front for a car can rise by 10% or more when you add taxes and fees into the equation. And if you need a car loan, you might have to put 10% down to get a used car and 20% down to get a new vehicle. If you decide to roll the sales tax and fees into the loan, you’ll cough up even more money over time because interest will accrue.

Once the car is in your possession, you’ll have to pay for insurance, car payments, parking fees, gasoline and whatever other costs come up. In a 2015 study, AAA found that a standard sedan cost Americans $8,698 annually, on average. As convenient as having your own car might be, it’ll be a huge investment.

Related Article: The True Cost of Cheaper Gas

How Much Should I Pay?

The exact amount that you should spend on a car might change depending on who you ask. Some experts recommend that car-buyers follow the 36% rule associated with the debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Your DTI represents the percentage of your monthly gross income that’s used to pay off debts. According to the 36% rule, it isn’t wise to spend more than 36% of your income on loan payments, including car payments.

Another rule of thumb says that drivers should spend no more than 15% of their monthly take-home pay on car expenses. So under that guideline, if your net pay is $3,500 a month, it’s best to avoid spending more than $525 on car costs.

That 15% cap, however, only applies to consumers who aren’t paying off any loans besides a mortgage. Since most Americans have some other form of debt – whether it’s credit card debt or student loans that they need to pay off – that rule isn’t so useful. As a result, other financial advisors suggest that car buyers refrain from purchasing vehicles that cost more than half of their annual salaries. That means that if you’re making $50,000 a year, it isn’t a good idea to buy a car that costs more than $25,000.

How to Buy a Car Without Busting Your Budget

If you’re trying to figure out how to make your first car purchase happen, know that you can do it even if your finances are currently in disarray. If you look at a website like Kelley Blue Book before visiting a dealership, you’ll have a better idea of what different makes and models cost. From there, you can set a goal and work towards reaching it by saving more and keeping your excess spending to a minimum.

Once you find a car you like (and that you can afford), you can save money by challenging or cutting out certain fees. For example, you can lower or bypass dealer fees for shipping and anti-theft systems. If you’re planning on getting an extended warranty, you can shop around and see if there’s another company offering a better deal on it than your car manufacturer.

Meeting with more than one dealer and comparing offers can also improve your chances of being able to find a vehicle within your price range. So can timing your purchase so that you’re buying a car when a salesperson is more open to negotiating, like near the end of a sales quarter.

Try out our budget calculator.

If you need financing, it’s important to make sure you’re not getting saddled with a car loan that’ll take a decade to pay off. Long-term car loans are becoming more common. In 2015, the average new car loan had a term of 67 months versus the 62 months needed to cover the average used car loan.

The longer your loan term, however, the more interest you’ll pay. And the harder it’ll be to trade in your car in the future, especially if the amount of the loan surpasses the car’s value. That’s why some experts suggest that buyers get loans that they can pay off in four years or less.

The Takeaway

How much should you spend on a car? Only you can decide that after reviewing your budget and figuring out if you can pay for the various expenses that go along with owning a car.

Keep in mind that getting a new or used car will likely involve taking on more debt. If you can’t make at least minimum payments on the debt you already have, it might be a good idea to get a part-time job or concentrate on saving so you won’t have to take out a huge loan.

Update: Have more financial questions? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Eva Katalin Kondoros, ©iStock.com/michaeljung, ©iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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Source: smartasset.com

The WeWork Effect

Much
has been written recently about the upcoming initial public offering by WeWork. But less has been written about the
company’s impact on the cities in which its co-working facilities are located.

WeWork
claims to have a positive impact on not only the companies leasing space from
it, but also surrounding businesses. So Moody’s
Analytics REIS Chief Economist Victor Calanog and Economic Analyst Keegan
Kelly set out to explore whether this promised benefit is really happening. The
two recently released a case study
using New York City as its subject. Here’s what they found:

  • While rents and occupancies might have changed
    in four nearby office buildings studied, there was no discernible effect that
    could be attributed to WeWork’s entry into the area.
  • Of four nearby apartment buildings studied, there
    was no relationship found between rent levels or vacancy rates as a result of
    WeWork.
  • There was one measurable result: “Average
    rent levels of surrounding office buildings experienced a decrease in standard
    deviation from the mean, with ranges tightening, following the signing of the
    respective WeWork leases.” This means that WeWork causes rent levels to
    converge by setting a rent level that surrounding office building managers feel
    compelled to follow.

The
authors concluded that the bottom-line effect of WeWork was ambiguous, summing
up the effects as follows: “Despite claims of raising economic activity and
business vitality in places where WeWork enters, it was never reasonable to
believe that WeWork’s presence would be a tide that lifts all boats, with
unambiguously positive effects. The more appropriate analogy is that WeWork is
like a pebble cast into a pond, disturbing and changing the ecosystem.”

Source: century21.com

How Gaps in Coverage Affect Auto Insurance Rates

  • Car Insurance

A lapse in coverage increases your risk and your rates. It may be harder to find suitable and affordable car insurance and may mean that you need to make some sacrifices in order to keep those insurance premiums at an affordable level. But it’s not a complete disaster and is far from the worst thing you can have on your record.

Find your best rate on Car Insurance!

Attention: Still Open During the Financial Crisis…

Tip: Act now to see if you qualify for lower rates!

Compare free personalized quotes from the nation’s top providers.

What is a Gap in Coverage?

A lapse or gap in coverage is a period in which you were not insured. You owned a car during this period but you didn’t meet the state minimum insurance requirements.

In some cases, a gap in coverage can be the result of negligence on your part. You may have allowed your insurance policy to lapse without purchasing a new one or it may have been canceled because you failed to meet your payment obligations.

A lapse in auto insurance coverage can also occur when you are deployed, sent to prison or because you simply didn’t drive during that period. 

If you fall into the first group, your insurer will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), telling them that your car insurance policy has lapsed and you are no longer insured. This will expose you to fines and a host of other problems (see our guide on the penalties imposed on uninsured drivers).

As for members of the military, they can suspend their car insurance coverage when they are on active duty, thus avoiding any rate increases and other problems. The same applies to students studying abroad, although in their case, they will need to contact their DMV first.

What Happens Following a Car Insurance Lapse?

Many states require you to have continuous insurance, which means your auto insurance policy has not lapsed for any period of time. As soon as it lapses, your license and registration may be revoked, and you will need to pay a fee to have these reinstated. These fees, as they apply in each state, are listed below, but it’s worth noting that you may also be hit with additional court fees and fines if you are found to be driving without insurance:

  • Alabama: Insurance Lapse Fee = $200 (first offense); $400 (second offense)
  • Alaska: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Arizona: Insurance Lapse Fee = $50
  • Arkansas: Insurance Lapse Fee = $50
  • California: Insurance Lapse Fee = $14
  • Colorado: Insurance Lapse Fee = $40
  • Connecticut: Insurance Lapse Fee = $200
  • Delaware: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100 + $5 a day
  • D.C.: Insurance Lapse Fee = $150 + $7 a day
  • Florida: Insurance Lapse Fee = $150 (first offense); $250 (second offense); $500 (third offense)
  • Georgia: Insurance Lapse Fee = $25
  • Hawaii: Insurance Lapse Fee = $20+
  • Idaho: Insurance Lapse Fee = $85
  • Illinois: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Indiana: Insurance Lapse Fee = $150 (first offense); $225 (second offense); $300 (third offense)
  • Iowa: Insurance Lapse Fee = N/A
  • Kansas: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100 (first offense); $300 (second offense)
  • Kentucky: Insurance Lapse Fee = $40
  • Louisiana: Insurance Lapse Fee = $125 to $525 (depending on length of gap)
  • Maine: Insurance Lapse Fee = Up to $115
  • Maryland: Insurance Lapse Fee = $150 + $7 per day
  • Massachusetts: Insurance Lapse Fee = $500
  • Michigan: Insurance Lapse Fee = $75
  • Minnesota: Insurance Lapse Fee = $30
  • Mississippi: Insurance Lapse Fee = $30
  • Missouri: Insurance Lapse Fee = $20 (first offense); $200 (second offense); $400 (third offense)
  • Montana: Insurance Lapse Fee = N/A
  • Nebraska: Insurance Lapse Fee = $500
  • Nevada: Insurance Lapse Fee = $251 to $1,000 (depending on length of gap)
  • New Hampshire: Insurance Lapse Fee = N/A
  • New Jersey: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • New Mexico: Insurance Lapse Fee = $30
  • New York: Insurance Lapse Fee = $8 to $12 per day
  • North Carolina: Insurance Lapse Fee = $50 (first offense); $100 (second offense); $150 (third offense)
  • North Dakota: Insurance Lapse Fee = N/A
  • Ohio: Insurance Lapse Fee = $160 (first offense); $360 (second offense); $660 (third offense)
  • Oklahoma: Insurance Lapse Fee = $400
  • Oregon: Insurance Lapse Fee = $75
  • Pennsylvania: Insurance Lapse Fee = $88
  • Rhode Island: Insurance Lapse Fee = $30 to $50
  • South Carolina: Insurance Lapse Fee = $550 + $5 per day
  • South Dakota: Insurance Lapse Fee = $78 to $228
  • Tennessee: Insurance Lapse Fee = $115
  • Texas: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Utah: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Vermont: Insurance Lapse Fee = $71
  • Virginia: Insurance Lapse Fee = $145
  • Washington: Insurance Lapse Fee = $75
  • West Virginia: Insurance Lapse Fee = $100
  • Wisconsin: Insurance Lapse Fee = $60
  • Wyoming: Insurance Lapse Fee = $50

Will My Car Insurance Rates Increase Following a Gap in Coverage?

In addition to the fines mentioned above, you can expect your auto insurance quotes to be a little higher than before, although this all depends on how long the gap in coverage was.

If it was less than 4 weeks, the rate increase may amount to a few extra dollars a month. If it was longer than 4 weeks, you could find yourself paying 20% to 50% more, depending on your chosen car insurance company. 

The exact rate of increase will depend on the state, high-risk status, driving record, car insurance discounts, and age of the driver. Insurance is all about measuring risk and probable claims, and an insurance company will look at everything from marital status to DUI convictions when measuring your risk and underwriting your new policy.

Bottom Line: Getting Cheap Car Insurance Quotes After a Lapse

In our research, we found that Progressive, Esurance, and State Farm offered lower rates than GEICO, even though GEICO typically tops the charts when it comes to insurance costs. You should also get much lower auto insurance rates with providers like USAA, providing you qualify.

To save even more, maintain a high credit score, aim for those good driver discounts, and try to secure bundling discounts, which are provided when you combine multiple different insurance products, such as homeowners insurance and car insurance.

The car you drive is also key. A new car will generally lead to much higher rates than a car that is a few years old, as it will be more expensive to repair and replace.

However, a car that is a few decades old will cost more to insurance than one that is a few years old, as it may lack the safety features and anti-theft features needed to keep rates low.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com