Having a wallet full of plastic can be a big temptation to overspend, which can lead to missed payments and a decreased credit score. If too many credit cards have you busting your budget, this might be a good reason for credit card closure. On the flip side, closing a credit card may hurt your credit score by messing with your credit history and credit utilization rate.
Depending on your situation, there are reasons for credit card closure. Canceling a credit card isn’t a bad idea if you close accounts that cost more to maintain than they’re worth and do it in a way that won’t significantly hurt your score.
Why Would a Credit Card Company Close Your Account?
While you’re considering your reasons for credit card closure, your credit card issuer might be doing the same thing. A credit card company has the right to cancel your card any time, and you may not get any warning it’s been canceled until it’s declined at the register.
A credit card provider will close your account if you quit paying the minimum monthly amount due. Missing one or two payments may only freeze your account until you’re caught back up, but your account will probably be closed after six months of nonpayment. Credit card companies have many other reasons for credit card closure.
Common reasons that may prompt a credit card issuer to cancel your account include:
Inactivity with a zero balance for several months
A drop in your credit score, especially due to late payments to other companies
Eliminating the type of card you have and closing everyone’s accounts
Going out of business because they’re no longer profitable
Do Closed Accounts Affect Your Credit Score?
Closing an account can affect your credit score because it can change your credit history and utilization rate, which are two major factors used to calculate your credit score. Your credit history is based on the amount of time all your credit card accounts have been open, so closing an older account can hurt.
Your credit utilization is based on the amount of available credit you’re currently using, so closing an account with a large credit limit and low balance can hurt even more. When deciding whether you should close a credit card account, consider some reasons why credit card closure makes sense.
1. You’re Getting Divorced
If you’re getting separated or divorced from a person who shares a joint account with you, close the account. Otherwise, you remain fully responsible for any bills your soon-to-be-ex might run up on the card. Even if your divorce decree says your former spouse will be responsible for the bill, you’re still on the hook as long as the account remains open. The credit card issuer is only interested in collecting the balance and will look to both accountholders for payment.
2. You Don’t Want to Pay the Fees
If your credit card company is charging an annual fee that you don’t want to pay, ask them to waive it. You can also ask them to waive a late fee if you’re accidentally late and you’re rarely late. If the credit card issuer won’t budge on a hefty annual fee, it could be a good reason for credit card closure and taking your business where there’s no annual fee.
3. The Card No Longer Makes Sense
Maybe you have a card you specifically opened to take advantage of frequent flyer miles because you traveled often for business. If your job no longer requires you to jet around the country or you move somewhere not serviced by the airline associated with this account, the card loses its appeal. Most airline rewards cards carry hefty annual fees after the first year, so it makes sense to close these accounts and switch to a card with a more useful rewards program.
4. The Card Has Been Used Fraudulently
Credit card fraud is the best reason for credit card closure. Typically, the credit card issuer automatically closes your account and issues you a new card when your credit card has been lost or stolen. However, this isn’t always the case when your card is used in other potentially fraudulent ways, such as:
You subscribed to a product or service online and, despite your best efforts to cancel the subscription, you keep getting hit with a monthly charge for something you no longer want.
You provided your credit card number for the collection of monthly payments on a debt, but the company is taking larger payments than you agreed to make.
You let your children use your account once for an emergency, and now, they use it every time another “emergency” occurs.
In these and similar situations, you may want to close your account. Otherwise, you risk having to fight to get future charges reversed.
5. You’re Done with Debt
You may have reached the point where you see no other way to get out of debt than to cancel your credit cards. It’s best for your credit score to keep a credit card or two open and just pay the balance in full each month, but this approach may not work for you. If you know you can’t resist the temptation of whipping out the plastic when you want something you can’t afford, it could be a good reason for credit card closure. However, before you make that decision, ask yourself two questions.
Is It Better to Close Unused Credit Cards?
Sometimes it can be better to close an unused credit card, especially if the card has a hefty annual fee. When you don’t use a credit card enough to outweigh the annual fee and come out ahead on its rewards program, the card is costing you money. It’s probably better to close an account in this situation.
Is It Bad for Credit to Close a Credit Card?
It can be bad for your credit to close a credit card if the card your closing is one of your oldest credit accounts and/or has a high credit limit with a low balance. As previously mentioned, closing older accounts hurts your score by lowering the length of your credit and payment history. Closing an account can also hurt your credit by changing the amount of your revolving credit utilization.
How to Exit Gracefully
If you’ve decided that closing a credit card account is the best course of action, try to minimize the damage to your credit score as much as possible. A credit card in good standing offers a lot of positive credit history that stays on your credit reports longer if you keep it open.
Although closing the account doesn’t make the card automatically disappear from your credit reports, you do lose the benefit of the available credit associated with that account. This changes your balance-to-available-credit ratio or revolving credit utilization.
To understand the credit utilization aspect of your credit reports, get a free credit report card from Credit.com. Calculate your balance-to-available-credit ratio by looking at your available credit compared to how much of this credit you’re using on individual cards and all your credit cards combined. When you’re using a significant portion of your available credit, you lose points when your credit score is calculated. Before closing an account, keep these factors in mind.
1. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low
An open credit line with a large limit and zero balance helps lower your overall revolving utilization, especially when you’re carrying balances on your other accounts. Keeping utilization at 10% is ideal, but you can still have a good credit score when using up to 25% of your available credit. Before closing an account, calculate how it changes your overall utilization to ensure losing that available credit won’t hurt your score much.
2. Keep Accounts Open
If you have several old accounts, closing one won’t impact your score as much as it would if you only had a couple. Keeping as many of your older accounts open as possible is better for your credit score. If you have only one credit card, it’s seldom a good idea to close your account. About 10% of your credit score is based on the different types of credit you have.
3. Keep Oldest Accounts
Whenever possible, keep your oldest accounts open. Most scoring models consider the age of your accounts, including your oldest and newest accounts, and the average age of all your accounts. A seasoned credit history helps keep your score healthy. A closed account also eventually falls off your credit report, and you lose all the positive history associated with the account.
After weighing the pros and cons, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to keep hanging onto a credit card. Before you close that account, make sure your credit score won’t suffer too badly. Sign up for Credit.com’s Credit Report Card and receive the latest tips and advice from a team of credit and money experts. You also benefit from a free credit score and action plan that helps you determine whether closing a credit card account is right for your situation.
Why You Should Not Buy a Credit Privacy Number (CPN) – SmartAsset
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If you’re looking to repair your credit, you may have come across websites that advertise a credit privacy number, credit protection number or CPN. These numbers are nine digits like a Social Security number (SSN), and sellers claim that you can use them instead of your SSN. However, these CPNs are often actual SSNs lifted from real people, reportedly children, prison inmates and the deceased – and you can never legally buy a new SSN. In other words, a CPN is no solution to your credit rating problem. Under no circumstances should you try to buy a CPN.
Why a CPN is No Credit Fix
Websites have sprung up all over the internet, offering CPNs to people with bad credit or low credit scores. They advertise that this number can serve as a “get out of jail free” card for your bad credit. In theory, you can use a CPN instead of your SSN on credit applications to hide the poor credit associated with your personal SSN. If you have bad credit but still need a credit card or loan, this can seem like the solution, assuming you can pay anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
That price might seem worth it for a chance to wipe the slate clean. However, these offers are essentially a big scam. The CPNs you can buy online are not legally assigned credit protection numbers. Instead, they are usually stolen Social Security numbers, taken from children, the deceased or inmates.
Also, using a purchased CPN puts you in some hot water, too. Credit agencies can easily spot discrepancies if you try to use a CPN on an application instead of your SSN. Not only will this fail to help your credit, but it’s also committing fraud which is punishable by jail time.
How to Avoid CPN Scams
If you’re dealing with some bad credit, don’t turn to a CPN. Only scammers sell CPNs, and they in turn may cheat you out of your personal information as well as hundreds or thousands of dollars. Using a purchased CPN can also put you in jail, even if you didn’t know the number was fraudulent. This is why it’s important to be aware of this popular scam.
If you really need a CPN or new SSN, it will be free. The process will go through the Social Security Administration Office, since a new number would be tied to your old SSN. That said, it is very hard to qualify to receive a new number. Having bad credit is never a qualifying reason.
How to Get a Legal CPN
With so many fraudulent websites and companies trying to sell you a way to reset your credit, it’s hard to know how to get a legal CPN. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some experts say that you can speak with an attorney to obtain a legal CPN. The attorney can then contact the Social Security Administration Office on your behalf. However, others maintain that all CPNs are illegal.
Generally, it seems that you cannot get a legal CPN unless you actually need one. These situations include celebrities, government officials and people under witness protection. You can also apply in other specific instances, like if you’re a victim of abuse, stalking or identity theft. A real CPN would be attached to your SSN, so it’s still not an escape from the credit tied to your SSN.
You may also stumble upon offers to obtain an EIN, or Employer Identification Number. The IRS does issue EINs, but only businesses can use them for business costs. This means that you cannot legally obtain an EIN as an individual looking to improve your credit. You also cannot make up a home business, apply for an EIN and use that new number for a credit reset. It is a federal crime to obtain an EIN under false pretenses. In any case, the credit profile for your EIN is still tied to your SSN.
You shouldn’t ever, under any circumstances, try to purchase a CPN. These offers are fraudulent and don’t provide any credit repair or relief. At the very least, buying a CPN wastes money you should put towards repaying your loans in the first place. At worst, you could go to jail for fraud. There are better, more constructive ways to repair your credit. If you’re truly in a situation that calls for a CPN, contact your lawyer for assistance.
Tips on Rebuilding Your Credit
Of course, the best way to legally clean up your credit is to pay back your debts and improve your credit practices. A good place to start is to pay off your credit card debt with the highest interest.
Sometimes you’ll just have to wait for your bad history to fall off your record. Generally, negative info stays on your credit report for seven years. If you can’t get a debt collection removed from your credit report, for example, it’ll stay there for seven years. However, as time goes on, the toll it takes on your report lessens.
Don’t go it alone. If you have a good income, but you’re just bad at managing your money, a financial advisor can help. With guidance, you can make smarter choices – and even start growing your wealth. To find an advisor, use our free, no-obligation matching tool. It will connect you with up to three advisors in your area.
Danielle Klimashousky Danielle Klimashousky is a freelance writer who covers a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset. She is an expert on topics including credit cards and home buying. Danielle has a BA in English from Wesleyan University.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg left behind a legacy of wisdom that feels more relevant in 2021 than ever. Here are a few lessons we should all carry into the new year.
January 4, 2021
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The diminutive woman, known affectionately as The Notorious RBG, served as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1993 until her death on September 18th, 2020, at age 87. RBG was the breaker of all kinds of ceilings. She fought, she believed, and she persevered—all actions that feel deeply relevant as we look to the year ahead of us.
Before I charge too quickly into the spin of 2021, I plan to reflect on some of the amazing life and career lessons RBG left behind. She gifted us a legacy of wisdom that will remain relevant for years to come.
So today, let’s reflect on some of what she taught us and consider how it might apply to our own adventures in the coming months.
1. To persuade others, don’t react, respond!
Ruth Bader Ginsburg achieved tremendous things in her lifetime. Much of her success required that she persuade others to share a point of view that may not have been popular.
And persuasive she was. Never one to steamroll or shame others onto her side, RBG was artful in how she changed hearts and minds.
She once shared with the New York Times some wedding-day advice she received from her mother-in-law: “In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”
And she goes on to say of that advice:
I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
I believe she was telling us not to ignore or excuse unkindness or incivility but to label and rise above it in our response.
In 2021, we are all going to be processing and wading through the heaviness that was 2020 as we face the challenges of the coming year. Careless words are likely to be spoken. But when they are, try not to let them trigger a reaction. Respond as the version of yourself you’re most proud of.
Respond as the version of yourself you’re most proud of.
The absence of your emotional reaction will make the intelligence of your response stand out even more. This is one way to bring hearts and minds to your side.
2. Disagree with an idea but respect the person who shared it
RBG maintained lifelong friendships with colleagues sitting on both sides of the political aisle. She was asked about her success at this many times throughout her career.
She spoke with NPR about her friendship with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and shared that while they disagreed deeply on many issues, she respected him enough to listen to what he said. And although he rarely changed her mind, his thinking pushed and challenged her own, making her even better.
When an idea doesn’t land with you, take a pause. Can you find the positive intent behind it? Can you empathize with the person suggesting it?
She also spoke of their finding common ground through shared interests and humor. She was able to separate her friend and colleague from the opinions he held. And this too feels like a useful skill to cultivate for 2021.
None of us knows what shape the workplace will take in the coming months. We will all hear many predictions, suggestions, and opinions. We will like some and hate others.
But when an idea doesn’t land with you, take a pause. Can you find the positive intent behind it? Can you empathize with the person suggesting it? Is there something useful you can find in it?
Keep the idea and the person in separate corners.
3. Never stop learning
Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, responding to a letter from an 8-year-old girl
RBG never lost her appetite for more information, for expanding her mind. As much wisdom as she had acquired, it was never enough.
And in this, she wasn’t alone. According to Inc. Magazine, many of the world’s most successful leaders—from Warren Buffet to Tony Robbins to Mark Cuban—are voracious readers.
As we continue to navigate the uncertainty ahead, learning new ways to do things will be critically important. So make continuous reading and learning a priority in 2021.
Not sure how to make it happen? Here are a few ideas:
Choose your sources wisely. Don’t try to read everything. Explore different books, publications, or blogs to see which resonate most with you.
Schedule reading time. Put reading time in your calendar. Maybe it’s 10 minutes a day. Maybe it replaces what used to be a commute before many of us started working virtually. Get creative.
Try audio. Hey, like podcasts or audiobooks? They’re a great source of inspiration, motivation, and knowledge. Maybe you can listen while you’re cooking or working out.
4. Prioritize self-care
RBG was so famous as an exerciser that her personal trainer published a book of the workouts she was still doing into her 80s. Once asked who the most important person in her life was, she famously responded, “My personal trainer.”
For RBG, intense exercise gave her the energy she needed to deliver her most impactful work. This is a lesson we all need to carry into 2021. As stress and burnout continue to threaten and plague us, we must all be mindful of how we manage our energy levels.
Working endless hours isn’t the most effective or fulfilling path to success. Working well is what delivers results. So find ways to care for yourself, to recharge your tank, every day.
You too may enjoy some intense exercise. Or you may choose to walk, meditate, journal, or call a friend. There is no right way to practice self-care, but doing it in some form is a must!
If you want some self-care guidance when it comes to fitness, nutrition, and coping with stress, here’s where I shamelessly plug podcasts from my amazing Quick and Dirty Tips colleagues:
Search for these wellness experts on your favorite podcast platform or visit QuickandDirtyTips.com.
I hope these nuggets of wisdom have helped you feel empowered to take on 2021. These are only a few of the countless gems RBG left us with. They feel, for me, entirely relevant in this moment. So let’s honor and celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s life together by letting her wisdom guide us through some murky months ahead.
About the Author
Rachel Cooke is a leadership and workplace expert who holds her M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. Founder of Lead Above Noise, she has been named a top 100 Leadership Speaker by Inc. Magazine and has been featured in Fast Company, The Huffington Post, and many more.
Earning an advanced degree as a working professional can be a challenge—unless you have a good financial plan.
Deia Schlosberg had been working as an environmental educator, teaching students about issues concerning conservation and sustainability. While she loved teaching, she wanted to reach people on a larger scale about the importance of protecting the environment. So she decided to follow her dream of becoming a filmmaker—a dream that would require her to return to school for a graduate degree. She had no idea at the time that it would lead to becoming an award-winning documentarian.
While Schlosberg’s choice may have paid off, learning how to pay for grad school as a working adult can be a challenge. There are various benefits to getting an advanced degree: You can learn more, you can earn more, you can further advance in your current job or prepare for a career change. However, you might also find yourself stressed by the expense and resulting debt of it all, especially if you have kids, a home or other financial commitments. So a big question on your mind could be, “How much should I save for grad school?”
Below are some lessons on how to financially prepare for grad school to help you determine if and when you should go back to school. If you haven’t yet decided if graduate school is right for you, see section 1 for tips on how to decide. If you already know you want to go back to school, skip to section 2.
1. Decide if going back to school is right for you
Getting an advanced degree may seem like a ticket to success, but depending on your chosen area of study, the outcome may vary. For Schlosberg, it was a bit of a risk. It can be difficult to get a break in the film industry, and going to grad school could mean carrying around debt for a long time. Is this the type of outcome you would be willing to accept?
According to Emma Johnson, best-selling author, career consultant and founder of Wealthysinglemommy.com, there are a few things you can do to help you decide whether or not going back to school is right for you:
Do your homework. When considering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, research your degree options and the jobs to which they might lead. Compare cost and compatibility—for instance, will classes for the program align with your work schedule? Once you’ve determined what kind of occupation you may pursue after grad school, search online for information about that occupation’s average earnings.
Solidify your goals. You may find clarity in writing out your goals for going back to school. Some benefits are tangible, like earning more money, building a professional network and gaining skills. Others might be less tangible, such as finding personal fulfillment. Once you know your goals, it will be easier to determine if a graduate degree makes personal and professional sense.
Give your degree program a test run. Consider taking classes that relate to the degree you are interested in getting in grad school. These classes can give you a taste of the subject matter you’ll be studying and help you meet people involved in the field. Also, if prerequisites are required for your advanced degree, they often cost less online or at a community college, which is important to remember when thinking about how to prepare your finances before grad school. Make sure the course credits will be accepted at the graduate school you plan to attend.
Take a hands-on approach. To level up in your existing career or find out what it’s like in a new field before making the change, get some work-related experience first. For instance, to learn more about moving up in your own field, get out and meet those higher level professionals by attending conferences and networking events. The same tactic applies if you want to change careers.
2. Know how much you need to save
How to pay for grad school as a working adult can be complicated, but you’ve decided you’re ready for it. Plus, hitting the books at a time when saving for retirement or your child’s education could be at the forefront makes the task of how to prepare your finances before grad school even more critical.
Figuring out how much to save for grad school begins with determining the cost of attendance. Here are a couple ways to do that, according to Johnson:
Do the research. Once you have found a school and degree that you like, visit the school’s web site. Some schools may provide the cost of tuition, fees and estimated costs for books, supplies and transportation. Costs can vary tremendously, depending on various factors: whether you attend full or part time, whether you attend a public or private school, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident and the time it takes to get your degree.
Determine your budget. Once you have a handle on the school-related costs, build a spreadsheet that accounts for these costs and projects monthly income and living expenses. Working through a savings plan beforehand can help you financially prepare for grad school by showing just how much you’ll need to budget for monthly on tuition plus living expenses. Once you determine these factors, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to save up.
Create a savings buffer. After you determine your monthly costs, pad that number. “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field,” Schlosberg says. She saved a little more than she estimated, giving herself an extra cushion to cover some of the potential risk to her finances.
3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline
One key factor in planning the timeline for earning your graduate degree: Don’t be in a rush. If you need to, create the time to save. It may not be necessary to go back to school full time or finish on a particular schedule, Johnson says. She mentions these possible paths to earning your degree when planning how to pay for grad school as a working adult:
Consider a side hustle. One option is to go to school full time and take on a side hustle. You may not make as much as you did as a full-time employee, but the income can complement your savings. It may also allow you to concentrate more on your degree and finish faster.
Attend part time. Go to school part time (nights and weekends) while working. It will take longer, but it will also minimize your debt, which could be better in the long run.
Take it slowly. Only sign up for a class or two—whatever you can afford—and continue to work. This part-time “lite” approach may take even longer, but could help you avoid overextending yourself financially or sliding into debt.
Take online classes. Consider online programs that could lower the cost of tuition and allow you to continue working full time.
4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits
So you’ve done your research on how much you need to save while determining how to prepare your finances before grad school. But there are ways to potentially cut or eliminate some of those costs. What comes next are some solutions that may help pay your grad school bills:
Consider loans, financial aid and scholarships. “I took out some student loans for living expenses, but I tried to pay off my tuition as I went by working through school,” Schlosberg says. Graduate students may also be eligible for different types of scholarships and grants, which is aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your area of study, scholarships and grants can also be obtained through federal and state organizations, private foundations, public companies and professional organizations.
Ask your employer to pay the tuition. One way to financially prepare for grad school is to talk to your manager or human resources representative to find out if your current employer would help pay for, or fully fund, your degree through tuition reimbursement. This is most likely if you plan to move up the ladder and use your new skills on behalf of the company.
Take advantage of in-state tuition. Some people move to the same state as their desired school to try to get a break on tuition. “I moved to Montana and worked a couple jobs for a year before applying so I could get in-state tuition,” says Schlosberg. Whether you are already a resident or you move to a new state, be sure to determine how long you need to be a resident to qualify for in-state tuition at your desired university.
Cut back on discretionary expenses. Seemingly small things like adjusting your lifestyle to lower your monthly costs, which could mean fewer lattes and dinners out, might go a long way in resolving how to prepare your finances before grad school. “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources,” Johnson says.
Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start
Answering the question of how to pay for grad school as a working adult requires significant research and preparation, but some say it’s worth it, including Schlosberg. It not only gave her a whole new start, but a wealth of knowledge going forward to nurture her future endeavors. “Getting a graduate degree gave me the confidence to jump into a new career. I met an amazing network of people,” Schlosberg says.
But an advanced degree may not be a necessity. While it could look impressive on a resume, for many employers, a master’s degree is not a requirement. “Whatever you do, don’t go back to school just for the sake of getting a degree,” Johnson says. When thinking about how to financially prepare for graduate school, make sure it fits into your financial picture and that you’re able to “weigh your sacrifices against future gains,” she says.
The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist – SmartAsset
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The average salary of a physical therapist is $84,020 per year.
If you’ve ever undergone physical therapy you know how important the work of physical therapists is. The job of a physical therapist is one that requires high levels of skill and training, as well as compassion and emotional intelligence. Let’s take a closer look at the profession and examine the average salary of a physical therapist.
Find out now: How much should I save for retirement?
The Average Salary of a Physical Therapist: The Basics
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a physical therapist is $84,020 per year, $40.40 per hour. That’s based on 2015 data. There were 210,900 physical therapists in the country as of 2014, but that number is expected to grow rapidly.
The job outlook for physical therapists (the percent by which the field will grow between 2014 and 2024) is 34%, according to BLS projections. That’s much faster than the average rate of growth for all professions (7%). It’s also faster than the job outlook for other in-demand medical professions. The job outlook for nurses is for 16% growth between 2014 and 2024. The job outlook for dentists is for 18% growth.
Check out our income tax calculator.
Where Physical Therapists Earn the Most
National-level data on the average salary of a physical therapist obscures regional variation. So where do physical therapists make the most? According to BLS data, the top-paying state for physical therapists is Nevada, where physical therapists earn an annual mean wage of $121,980. Other high-paying states for physical therapists are Alaska ($100,560), Texas ($96,970), California ($95,300) and New Jersey ($95,150).
The top-paying metro area for physical therapists is Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV, where physical therapists earn an annual mean wage of $135,390. Other high-paying metro areas for physical therapists are Merced, CA ($130,220); Napa, CA ($125,970); Brownsville-Harlingen, TX ($124,700) and Laredo, TX ($119,310).
Related Article: The Best Jobs for Meeting a Mate
Becoming a Physical Therapist
To enter the physical therapy profession, physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. States also require physical therapists to be licensed to practice their profession.
Physical therapists who are committed to a particular specialty within the field can apply for board certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). The ABPTS offers board-certification in nine physical therapy specialty areas: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Geriatrics, Neurology, Oncology, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics, Sports and Women’s Health.
Attaining the credentials necessary for a career in physical therapy is an expensive undertaking. Like other degrees, physical therapy degrees have increased in cost in recent years, leading to higher levels of student debt among physical therapists.
The American Physical Therapy Association lists the costs of a DPT degree. Public in-state tuition for physical therapy averages $14,427, but ranges from $3,387 to $45,340. Public out-of-state tuition averages $29,157, but ranges from $8,425 to $65,156. Finally, private tuition averages $31,716, but ranges from $19,500 to $94,020.
If helping people heal, eliminate pain and improve their mobility appeals to you, becoming a physical therapist might be the right career move for you. The education and training required of physical therapists is rigorous, but the salaries that physical therapists earn are high and the job outlook is very strong. As the population of the U.S. ages, physical therapists will be in greater demand than ever. The recent opiate crisis is also likely to refocus attention on non-pharmaceutical methods of pain management such as physical therapy. In short, becoming a physical therapist is a solid career move.
Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
Eligible streaming services (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, FuboTV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube TV).
Discover it® Cash Back and other eligible Discover cards
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, spending money and time indoors looks to remain the norm in 2021, and these cards can help with that kind of budget this quarter. Here’s how.
Nerd tip: The original Chase Freedom® is no longer accepting applications, but existing cardholders still enjoy the same 5% bonus calendar that the new Flex product offers.
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Load up on discounted wholesale club wares
Want to stock up on paper towels, snow tires, or enough cheese to feed the neighborhood when you’re ready for social soirees? Your local wholesale club has got you covered, and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is the ideal card to use there this quarter.
And even if you’re not a member or don’t have a location nearby, there are still ways to earn bonus rewards in this category. That’s because, perhaps surprisingly, membership isn’t required to shop online with these clubs.
BJ’s offers a one-day online pass to nonmembers ($10 per year after that). Sam’s Club and Costco also both offer nonmembers the ability to shop online, though you may incur fees of 10% and 5% of your order when you do so.
Nerd tip: The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a Mastercard and therefore not accepted in-store at Costco, which accepts Visa only. However, the card is accepted at Costco.com. And if you hold the original Chase Freedom®, you’re good either way: It’s a Visa.
Here are some tips to maximize your warehouse savings:
Find a special offer on membership: If you’re not yet a member, consider trying a club for a special deal. As of this writing, Sam’s Club was offering a $45 gift card to new members who pay $45 to join by March 7, 2021. Discount sites like Groupon often offer discounted joining rates, as do coupon flyers that arrive in your snail mail. Check the wholesale club’s website for new member deals.
Triple-stack your savings: You’re already saving cash when you stock up on essentials at wholesale club prices, and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns bonus rewards this quarter on top of that — but there’s a way to get even more value from your purchase if you’re skipping the store and shopping online. If you click through an online shopping portal to get to the wholesale club’s site, you can earn airline miles, credit card points or extra cash back on your purchase. For optimizers, that’s rock-star status.
Stock up on discounted gift cards: Wholesale clubs discount virtually everything they sell, including gift cards. You can save up to 25% on gift cards from your favorite restaurants and retailers when you buy them at a wholesale club. If you can afford to buy discounted gift cards now for shops you’re sure to frequent later, you can ramp up your 5% credit card rewards while saving some cash.
Autopay ‘boring’ charges for added value
Let’s be honest: Not many of us get too jazzed about paying our monthly bills. Still, most consumers pony up for cable, internet service (hello, virtual work and school) and/or a phone bill each month. Why not earn bonus cash back while doing it?
Take a few minutes to switch your payment method on these monthly bills to your Chase Freedom Flex℠.
Note, however, that using a credit card to pay these bills may not always make sense. Some providers offer cheaper rates if you pay by debit card or check, rather than credit. Check your provider’s policy beforehand.
Snuggle up for at-home family movie night or date night
Staying in is the new going out. Most of us now have a subscription (or three) to a streaming service, and this quarter the Chase Freedom Flex℠ can earn elevated rewards on those expenses. (Or, maybe this bonus category finally compells you to try Disney+ … you know, for the kids.)
Alternately, if your new year’s resolution is to cut back on screen time, keep in mind that music subscription services like Spotify, Pandora or SiriusXM also count toward the bonus.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ currently offers this bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Chase Freedom® and Chase Freedom Flex℠* bonus rewards categories for 2021
For many households, groceries are always a big expense, and it may only have gotten bigger amid the pandemic. So when grocery stores are a rotating bonus category for the Discover it® Cash Back, it’s time to stock the fridge and pantry.
Even if you’d rather grocery-shop from your couch than head to the store, you can still earn 5% cash back this quarter when you charge it to your eligible Discover card. Many grocery stores offer curbside pickup or local delivery when you order online.
Grocery delivery services like Instacart, Shipt and Amazon Fresh are not eligible for the bonus, but Walmart grocery pickup and delivery is (other Walmart purchases are not eligible).
Take stock of your health and wellness essentials
It’s a bad time to realize that you’re out of bandages when you cut your finger while cooking dinner. If you’re looking to load up on household health essentials, use the Discover it® Cash Back as you replenish your supply.
Head to your local Walgreens or CVS to restock your medicine cabinet and toiletries drawer. If you’d rather shop from home, both stores offer the ability to order online for delivery or store pickup.
Nerd tip: Both CVS and Walgreens — as well as many grocery stores, for that matter — sell gift cards to various other retailers, and the purchase of those gift cards also qualifies for Discover’s bonus rewards this quarter.
If you have an FSA or HSA account, you could charge qualifying drugstore expenses on your Discover it® Cash Back and then reimburse yourself. Just make sure you’re clear on what expenses are eligible and keep good records of your receipts.
Not only will new cardholders earn extra cash back on the categories above, new cardholders are eligible for this sign-up bonus: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Discover bonus rewards categories for 2021
Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)
• Grocery stores.
Q2 (April 1 – June 30)
• Gas stations.
• Wholesale clubs.
• Select streaming services.
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)
Information related to the Chase Freedom® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.
Dealing with credit card debt can be overwhelming. If you’re having trouble making your payments, consolidating your credit card debt may be an effective solution to your problems.
The best way to consolidate credit card debt depends on several factors. This includes how much debt you have, what your current interest rates are, and how close you are to defaulting on your accounts.
5 Effective Ways to Consolidate Credit Card Debt
Here are the five ways to consolidate credit card debt effectively:
Balance transfer credit card
Low-interest debt consolidation loan
Debt management plan
Home equity loan or HELOC
1. Balance Transfer Credit Card
If you’re within striking distance of paying off the bulk of your credit card debt, you might want to consolidate multiple credit card balances onto a single card. Many credit card issuers offer low introductory APRs or even 0% APR deals if you transfer balances from other cards.
If you can find a lower rate than what you’re currently paying, you’ll save a lot of money on interest payments. And instead of trying to remember multiple due dates, you can focus on one monthly payment.
You want to pay off the full amount of your credit card debt before the introductory APR expires. Otherwise, you might end up paying even more money in interest than if you had simply paid each balance separately.
Save money on interest
Pay off credit card debt more quickly
Streamline your monthly payments
Most credit cards come with a balance transfer fee
Excellent credit is required to qualify for 0% APR
The intro APR expires in 12-18 months
2. Low-Interest Debt Consolidation Loan
Another option is to pay off your various credit cards with a single debt consolidation loan. This will allow you to pay off your credit cards and save money with a lower interest rate.
You can then put the extra savings toward additional debt repayments. You can apply for debt consolidation loans through financial institutions such as a bank, credit union, or online lender.
Or you can spread your repayment term over several years, which will make it easier to manage your monthly payments. You’ll pay interest for a longer time frame. But if you can get a low rate and avoid going into default, the longer term might be an advantage for you.
Low interest rate
Your credit score will likely improve
Fixed monthly payments
You’ll need excellent credit to qualify
Monthly payments will be higher than the minimum payment on credit cards
You could end up racking up more debt
3. Debt Management Plan
Debt management services are available for individuals who are struggling to keep up with high-interest credit card payments. The debt relief company will work with your creditors to reach a repayment agreement. They can negotiate to lower your interest rate so you’ll get out of debt faster.
Most debt management plans take between three and five years to complete. And most, if not all of your credit cards, will be closed during your repayment period so you won’t have any access to credit.
Lower your interest rate
Get out of debt sooner
Takes 3-5 years to complete
You won’t have any access to credit
4. Home Equity Loan or HELOC
If you’re a homeowner, using the equity in your home to pay down credit card debt could be a good way to consolidate debt. Home equity rates are at an all-time low so this could be a better option than carrying high-interest credit card debt.
You’ll do this by taking out either a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). The main difference between the two is that a home equity loan is similar to a personal loan while a HELOC operates more like a credit card.
With home equity loans, you receive a one-time lump sum of money. A HELOC is a revolving line of credit that allows you to withdraw money as you need it. Your house will be used as collateral for both types of loans.
See also: Best Home Equity Loans of 2020
You’ll receive a lower interest rate
You’ll have just one monthly payment
You can save money
It takes longer to apply for than other types of loans
You may have to pay closing costs
You put your home at risk
5. 401(k) Loan
If you have an employer-sponsored retirement account, there’s a good chance it’s a 401(k). Most plans allow users to borrow up to half of their account balance, with a limit of $50,000.
Borrowing money against your 401(k) is not advised because it could seriously damage your retirement planning. And don’t make the mistake of assuming that it doesn’t matter just because you have 30 years or more until you reach retirement age.
However, it could be the right option for you if none of the other items on this list work for you. Just make sure you have a good financial plan and do this responsibly so you don’t just continue the cycle of debt.
There’s no impact on your credit score
You’ll pay a lot less money in interest
You could end up paying significant penalties
You could damage your retirement plans
Does debt consolidation affect your credit?
How your credit is affected depends on the way you consolidate your credit card debt. You should evaluate your options so that you find a plan that works for you in both the short-term and the long-term.
Here is a brief overview of how each plan could affect your credit.
Balance transfer card: This could cause your credit score to drop temporarily because the new account lowers your overall credit age. However, after several months of making your payment on time, it will be a positive account on your credit report.
Low-interest debt consolidation loan: You could see a bump in your credit score because installment loans are more favorable than revolving credit.
Debt management plan: Debt management can help your credit score because your creditor reports your debt as being “paid as agreed.”
Home equity loan or HELOC: Both are unlikely to negatively impact your credit. A HELOC is considered revolving debt but it’s not a credit card so it isn’t included in the utilization ratio on your credit card accounts.
401(k) loan: This will not affect your credit score at all since you’re borrowing money from your retirement savings instead of a lender.
Are debt consolidation and debt management the same thing?
No, there is a big difference between debt consolidation and debt management. Debt management is also referred to as debt settlement, and with this strategy, you’ll keep your accounts separate.
A debt relief company will negotiate on your behalf to reduce your monthly payments and interest where they can. You won’t open any new loans or accounts, but the monthly payments are reduced wherever possible.
Debt management could be a wise choice for individuals that have bad credit and can’t qualify for a low-interest debt consolidation loan or credit card.
When is debt consolidation a good idea?
Depending on your circumstances, debt consolidation may or may not be right for you. Here are a few scenarios when you might consider debt consolidation:
Your outstanding debt (excluding your mortgage) is less than 40% of your monthly income.
You have a high credit score and can qualify for good rates on a balance transfer credit card or debt consolidation loan.
Your income is high enough to meet your monthly debt repayments.
You have a strategy for staying out of debt in the future.
Here is an example of when debt consolidation is a good plan. Let’s say you have three open credit cards with interest rates ranging between 19% and 25%.
If you’re able to qualify for an unsecured personal loan with an 8% interest rate, then debt consolidation could be a good plan. You’re saving money on interest and can get out of debt quicker than if you continue paying on high-interest credit cards.
When is debt consolidation a bad idea?
The biggest problem with debt consolidation is that it doesn’t address the reasons why you got into debt in the first place. If you don’t change your spending habits, then consolidating credit card debt is only going to be a short-term fix.
Credit card consolidation also may not be for you if your credit score is low and you’re unable to qualify for a lower interest rate. Simplifying your monthly payments is helpful, but only if you can eliminate the amount you’re paying in interest.
And finally, you should only use a balance transfer credit card if you have a plan to pay it off during the introductory period. If not, you could end up in the same financial situation you’re already in.
Can debt consolidation hurt your credit score?
To understand how debt consolidation might affect your credit, let’s look at the factors that determine your credit score. Your FICO credit score is determined by the following five factors:
Payment History: 35%
Amount Owed: 30%
Length of Credit History: 15%
New Credit: 10%
Types of Credit Used: 10%
Your payment history and the amount you currently owe make up the majority of your FICO score. So if you’ve maxed out your credit cards or are having trouble making your payments on time, then your credit score has likely already been affected.
That being said, there are a few things you should watch out for when you’re considering debt consolidation.
Once you have a credit card consolidation plan, watch your credit score closely both during and after the process. A competent credit repair company can ensure your debt repayment plan is accurately reflected on your credit report. We recommend Lexington Law Firm as a great place to start. Read our review of them and consider giving them a call.
A hard credit inquiry happens when you’ve been pre-approved for a loan and are moving forward with the application process. A hard credit inquiry won’t hurt your credit long-term, but you should expect to see a temporary dip after you’ve applied for a new loan.
Credit utilization refers to how much debt you have as opposed to how much credit you have available. When you’re consolidating your debt, your credit utilization ratio may temporarily go up. However, if you keep your current credit cards open and don’t close the accounts, your credit utilization should eventually go back down.
How to Prepare for Debt Consolidation
If you decide to move forward with debt consolidation, there are a few things you should do to prepare. First, you should make a list of all your monthly debts. This list should include all of your credit card debt and everything else you owe, excluding your mortgage payments.
Next, you should track down your recent billing statements and add up your total balances. Add up all your current credit card balances to figure out how much money you need to consolidate everything.
Now that you know how much you owe, you should check your credit report. This will give you a better idea of what kind of rates you can qualify for. If your credit score is low, you should take steps to improve it before applying for new credit.
And finally, you should shop around for the right lender. Look for lenders that work with borrowers in your situation. Compare the interest rates, repayment terms, fees, and any other requirements needed to submit an application.
Debt consolidation isn’t a quick fix, and it won’t solve all your financial problems. It can be a good option, but you need to address the reasons why you got into so much debt in the first place.
Do-it-yourself repayment options, like the debt snowball method, could be a good alternative to debt consolidation.
If you’ve decided to pursue debt consolidation, review your loan options, and see what you qualify for. If you can qualify for a 0% balance transfer card or low-interest personal loan, then debt consolidation may be a good option for you.
Update 1/5/2021: Based on readers comments, it seems the minimum threshold for redeeming gas/grocery/dining on the Arrival Plus is now $50, as the terms state, not $25, as had been the case. The no-fee Arrival still has $25 minimum, as always.
Update: Separately, Barclays has also lowered the minimum travel redemption threshold on the Arrival Plus from $100 to $50. And apparently for gas/grocery/dining the threshold we’re seeing is just $25. (On the no-fee Arrival the threshold for travel and the others is $25, as it always is.)
Barlcaycard added a temporary benefit to be able to redeem your Arrival points to offset grocery, gas, and restaurant purchases for travel statement credits. This is showing for both the Arrival Plus and the no-fee Arrival version.
When redeeming for cashback, you only get .5 cents per point whereas when redeeming for travel you get 1 cent per point. This temporary change allows redemptions for grocery, gas, and restaurants at the full 1-cent value. You can see it in your online login in the ‘using my miles’ section.
This is really awesome for people who have Arrival points sitting there with no travel on the horizon. It does seem a little strange that Barclay refused to add categories for many months, and now are adding it with just 5-6 weeks to use it, but we’ll take what we get. I believe Arrival redemptions become available immediately once the charge posts to your account, so we should have a full 5+ weeks of time to spend on these categories and use up your Arrival points. You can also buy gift cards at the grocery store to help increase your spend there.
Now through 1/31/2021, qualifying gas, grocery store and restaurant purchases made within the last 120 days can be redeemed for travel statement credits.
Qualifying gas purchases are defined as automated fuel dispensers and service stations, as identified by the merchant category codes. Qualifying restaurant purchases are defined as: Restaurants and Fast Food restaurants, as identified by the merchant category codes. Qualifying grocery store purchases are defined as grocery stores, as identified by the merchant category codes.
Purchases must be submitted by merchants using the merchant category codes for purchases in the above specified categories to qualify for the additional miles. Barclays is not responsible for incorrectly coded purchases. Additional miles may not be earned if the merchant submits the purchase using a mobile or wireless card reader or if you use a mobile or digital wallet to pay for the purchase. Additionally, purchases made through third parties, including online marketplaces and resellers, or using a third-party payment account will not earn additional miles.
Credit cards can open numerous doors of opportunities, and many even offer great cash-back rewards. But credit cards can also give you a good defense against untrustworthy online sellers. In the event of a dispute with a merchant, it provides the ultimate ace up your sleeve: the chargeback.
What Is a Credit Chargeback?
If you didn’t receive something you ordered, if you received the wrong item, or you just feel otherwise wronged by a transaction, a chargeback can return the money you spend to your account when the merchant refuses to do so. To initiate a credit chargeback, you can file a claim with your credit card company against a merchant. If your card issuer deems your complaint has merit, it will remove the money you paid from the merchant’s account and put it back in yours. Your credit card company is kind of like a tough older brother, talking to the bully who took your lunch money and getting it back.
Is a Chargeback the Same as a Refund?
A chargeback isn’t the same as a refund and shouldn’t be viewed as an alternative. A credit card chargeback should be requested only when a seller or merchant refuses to return your money of its own accord. If a product proves defective or never arrives on your doorstep, your first stop should be traditional channels—that is, the retailer’s customer service desk or phone number.
If, after that, the merchant refuses a rightful refund, you can bring in your bank. Your credit card issuer should have clear instructions for formally disputing a charge, with options including a phone call, a written letter or an online form. There are often time limits and other criteria that must be met so you can’t request a return of funds for a purchase made years ago.
What Qualifies for a Credit Chargeback?
Before you request a chargeback, it’s important to note that some situations qualify and some don’t. The Fair Credit Billing Act is a federal law that dictates how credit card fraud and billing disputes are handled. It defines a number of situations as billing errors, including “goods or services not accepted by the obligor or his designee or not delivered to the obligor or his designee in accordance with the agreement made at the time of a transaction.”
In other words, if you order a product and it never arrives—or if you refuse delivery because it’s not what you expected to receive or it’s been damaged before getting to you—you’re entitled to your money back.
On the other hand, being unsatisfied with a purchase or a product isn’t a reason to request a credit chargeback. The National Consumer Law Center notes in its guide to credit card rights, “You cannot raise a complaint about the quality of merchandise or services you bought with a credit card in the form of a billing dispute.”
Your disappointment will probably help you get a refund, but involving your bank in petty grievances isn’t the way to go. Besides, cardholders who “cry wolf” too often and request too many credit chargebacks will have their requests taken less seriously and may even be put off for months.
Does a Chargeback Affect Your Credit?
A chargeback does not usually affect your credit. The act of filing a chargeback because of a legitimate cause for complaint against a business won’t affect your credit score. The issuer may add a dispute notation to your credit report, but such a notation does not have a negative effect on your credit. You may also be expected to make payments on the disputed charge until the investigation is completed, and late payments will affect your credit score.
However, if your complaint is illegitimate or determined to be fraudulent, your account can be closed by your credit provider, which can affect your score. Even if your charge is legitimate, sometimes the bank will side with the merchant, and then you’ll have to pay accompanying fees. Still, there usually isn’t any negative outcome for your credit score for simply requesting a credit chargeback.
How Do Banks Handle Chargebacks?
As long as the credit card issuer follows the guidelines set out in federal law, it can set its own procedures for how to handle disputes. Take, for instance, the timeframe in which cardholders must contact their issuers, which is set by the FCBA at a minimum of 60 days. Some institutions may extend the timeframe allowed to dispute a charge, but they cannot go below 60 days.
Banks can also ask for documentation to support the cardholder’s claim, including any documentation that will help the issuer fully inform the merchant about the nature of the dispute. So, don’t dispute a charge unless you have some evidence to back up your claim.
Think of disputing your charge like you’re going to court. If you want to make a case against someone or some entity, you need solid, concrete evidence to even have that person arrested and charged. You’ll need some proof of the validity of your dispute for a credit card issuer to even consider your chargeback case.
Finally, it’s worth noting that some banks may go above and beyond the general dispute resolution guidelines to achieve optimal customer satisfaction. Some may even provide a courtesy credit to customers at a loss for the bank.
How Does a Visa Chargeback Work?
Every credit card company handles disputes and credit card issues in a different way. Visa, one of the largest credit card companies, changed its chargeback rules and techniques in 2018 in hopes to streamline and speed up the process.
Visa defines a chargeback as “the reversal of the dollar value (in whole or in part) of a transaction by the card issuer to the acquirer, and usually, by the merchant bank to the merchant.”
At one point, Visa chargebacks took over a month and a half to resolve. However, the process is now mostly automated, meaning customers and merchants don’t have to wait weeks for an issue to be settled.
The process Visa follows is mostly like other companies. When a customer disputes a charge, Visa asks the customer for information about the transaction. An acquirer can then forward that information to a merchant, giving the merchant the option to dispute the customer’s complaint with evidence of its own. The acquirer then collects all of the information and decides who is at fault.
Visa now addresses these disputes from an unbiased perspective, in contrast with its prior perspective as a representative of the customer. Visa’s automated systems act impartially and assign liability to whichever party it deems responsible.
What Is a Return Item Chargeback on a Bank Statement?
A return item chargeback isn’t actually related to the act of disputing a charge through a credit chargeback. A return item chargeback occurs when a bank charges a fee to a cardholder or consumer because of a bounced or rejected check.
A bank will attempt to cash or accept a check for deposit, but the other bank will refuse to make the funds available or a problem will be encountered with the check itself. Thus, a fee will be charged to the writer of the rejected check.
These return item chargebacks will show up on a bank statement as a fee. Consumers want to make sure to avoid this by regularly reviewing their bank statements and always ensuring they have adequate funds before writing a check.
Credit Chargebacks as Consumer Tool
Chargebacks are a potent tool in the consumer’s arsenal, to the point that even threatening a chargeback may scare shady merchants into resolving the disputes themselves. After all, businesses can be seriously hurt if too many chargebacks are requested, even to the point of a bank shutting down its account. Every chargeback also costs merchants a fee, so it’s understandable that merchants want to avoid these if possible.
If the retailer still doesn’t blink, however, don’t hesitate to follow through and take advantage of this key aspect of consumer protection.