The IHG moniker may not be as familiar as Hilton or Marriott, but if you’ve heard of either Holiday Inn or Crowne Plaza, then you’re better acquainted with the chain than you probably thought. The InterContinental Hotels Group – IHG for short – owns and operates roughly 4,900 properties in nearly 100 countries under the banner of at least 12 different sub-brands, including all four members of the Holiday Inn family.
The chain’s loyalty program, IHG Rewards Club, is free to join and provides a host of perks to visitors – ranging from a complimentary newspaper at your door when you wake up in the morning to points for every dollar spent at IHG hotels that you can redeem for free nights. It’s not all mints on your pillow, though. There are advantages and disadvantages to any hotel rewards program, and members always have to act strategically in order to maximize their earnings.
The Verdict: Capital One’s Secured MasterCard is hands down the best credit card for bouncing back from bad credit. In fact, it’s the most inviting means of credit repair there is.
While some of its sub-brands may not be top of mind, the Marriott name is familiar to most people. It’s one of the oldest and most expansive in the hotel industry, carrying with it an aura of legitimacy and expectations for a certain level of quality at the chain’s more than 4,000 worldwide locations.
What frequent travelers must determine, however, is the extent to which Marriott’s loyalty rewards program contributes to the chain’s overall popularity. In other words, does Marriott Rewards have 49 million members because it’s particularly lucrative or consumer-friendly relative to other hotel loyalty programs, or simply because Marriott is a dominant industry name to begin with?
The Verdict: The Amazon Credit Card figures to become increasingly popular, not to mention more valuable, as Amazon.com strives to canopy the farthest reaches of digital-age commerce.
The Verdict: Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best rewards credit cards on the market, yielding the average person roughly $1,200 over the course of two year’s use. The core of this offer is the combination of a $400 to $500 initial rewards bonus and a first-year fee waiver, which makes the card somewhat akin to an open house that you get paid to attend. If you enjoy your experience and are a frequent traveler who doesn’t mind booking accommodations through Chase, a $95 annual fee starting in year two shouldn’t scare you away from keeping your account open past the 12-month mark.
The Verdict: The Chase Freedom brand name connotes fun, excitement and independence – primarily the financial variety. But instead of freeing you from budgetary concerns, this card requires hands-on account maintenance to live up to its potential and, even then, would provide less value than numerous other available credit cards for people with excellent credit.
The Verdict: It’s already in the travel rewards hall of fame and continues to be one of the best offers out there. The Capital One Venture Card has long served as the standard-bearer for a more straightforward credit card market, with its “No Hassle” double miles, lucrative initial rewards bonus and lack of foreign transaction fees helping to set pro-consumer trends amid a landscape previously characterized by general shadiness.
The Verdict: As its commercials and name make clear, the Citi Double Cash Credit Card effectively offers 2% cash back across all purchases and doesn’t muck things up with an annual fee (note: Citi is a CardHub partner). While this might not sound that great – especially when juxtaposed with offers for 5, 10, even 15 points or miles per dollar spent in certain categories – the average person would actually accrue more net value with Double Cash than any other general-purpose rewards card on the market, according to CardHub research.
The Verdict: There’s no better credit card than Marriott Rewards Premier for brand-loyal customers who have excellent credit, pay their balances in full every month and spend at least $1,000 through the chain each year. In fact, the more one spends at Marriott locations, the better the deal gets. But superior options may exist if you have some flexibility in terms of which hotel chain you patron – especially if you’re just looking for a few free nights up front and aren’t as concerned with ongoing use.
The annual fees on credit cards – assessed each year on your account anniversary – currently range from $0 to $495, with the average being around $11, according to CardHub research. In the face of these sometimes-stiff fixed costs, most consumers gravitate toward no annual fee credit cards based on the assumption that it makes little sense to pay for something that can otherwise be obtained for free. It’s solid reasoning, and with everything else being equal, opting for the cheapest card is definitely the way to go.
But credit cards aren’t commodities. They aren’t all the same save for their initial price tags, and one must consider annual fees along with other important account terms – such as rewards, interest rates, foreign transaction fees and balance transfer fees – in order to get a complete picture of a given card’s value proposition.
The Verdict: The highly acclaimed Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard arrived on the scene in March 2013, firing a direct shot across the Capital One Venture Card’s bow by topping Venture’s famed double-miles offer — plus keeping pace in terms of sign-up value, redemption flexibility and fees. But knocking off the reigning champ doesn’t necessarily make you the best, so it’s fair to wonder: Is Barclaycard Arrival Plus the alpha in the strong pack of travel rewards credit cards that have emerged following the Great Recession?
Getting your first credit card is an essential, often daunting rite of passage – no matter how old you are when it comes. Most people think of college students (perhaps nervously) when discussing this inauguration into the world of personal finance, but first-time applicants come in all shapes and sizes. Many are simply late to credit-building class, so to speak, while others – immigrants and divorcees, for instance – are merely responding to a recent change in circumstances.
The particular card that will suit you best ultimately depends on factors such as your income and educational status, but the benefit of opening an account is always the same: Credit cards are the most cost-effective, accessible credit-building vehicles at consumers’ disposal. Merely having an open credit card in your own name will help to improve your credit score, even if you lock it in a drawer and don’t use it to make purchases. Having a good credit score is important not only because it opens a lot of doors – helping you qualify for certain types of careers and enabling you to purchase a home, for example – but also because good credit can save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars each year.
Hilton Worldwide is the largest hotel chain in the U.S. and the second-largest globally, with more than 750,000 rooms across 94 countries. The company’s loyalty program, HHonors Rewards, is also one of the most popular among travel-minded consumers, boasting more than 25 million members – including a record 4.2 million new enrollees in 2014.
The ability to earn free nights is HHonors’ main draw, and members cashed in on 5.4 million rewards nights in 2014, according to Hilton. Other perks include specialized check-in/check-out procedures, the potential for room upgrades, discounts on activities, and health club access – depending on your status level.
Invoice, purchase order and accounts receivable factoring, or financing, are all pretty much the same thing. They’re short-term liquidity solutions that involve selling rights to expected future income – whether it’s a vendor payment or reimbursement from a credit card company – in return for a lesser amount of up-front capital to be paid out immediately.
This, in turn, enables the seller to fund operations – perhaps needed to fulfill the vendor’s order to pay credit card interchange fees – without having to suffer a potentially debilitating wait for liquidity. The buyer, on the other hand, benefits from a reasonable expectation of turning a quick 3% – 20% return.
Pets can be quite expensive. For example, between food, vet bills and other miscellaneous expenses, most dog owners will spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000 – $35,000 over the course of their pet’s expected lifespan – 6 to 14 years, depending on the breed – according to estimates from the American Kennel Club and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Cat owners don’t have it much better, facing expected annual costs of around $670, which would equate to roughly $10,050 over a feline’s 15-year average lifespan.
It’s therefore no surprise that the 160 million pet-owning U.S. households are projected to collectively spend $60.59 billion on pet care in 2015, after shelling out $266.5 billion in the previous five years. Furthermore, it’s obvious why a flourishing pet financing industry has cropped up to help people afford the sometimes-exorbitant costs associated with caring for our furry, feathered and scaled friends.
Small business grants are kind of like grants for college. They’re out there if you can find them, offered by a variety of government and private sources, and they can be crucial to the affordability of development of growing companies. But they’re also very difficult to qualify for, with the bulk of the available funds going to the top few percent of people with particular, in-demand skill sets.
For example, the federal government’s primary small business grant programs only approved about 17% of grant applicants in 2012. And, dating back to 1983, only an average of 4,709 small business grants have been disbursed each year.
It generally takes 7-10 business days to get a new credit card after being approved for an account. That means you’ll have plastic in your hands 14 – 24 business days after submitting an application, if everything goes smoothly. If you need a replacement card because your original plastic was lost, stolen or damaged, it will take 3 – 7 business days, depending on the issuer.
Most issuers offer free expedited shipping (often overnight) for replacement cards, and a handful extend the benefit to new cards. Others charge a fee or don’t offer expedited card delivery at all. And other than that, applying online rather than at a branch location is really the only way to speed up the time it will take to put plastic in your palm.