Which United Airlines credit card should you choose?

If you regularly fly with United Airlines or you live in or near Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark or San Francisco – the airline’s hubs – picking up an United Airlines credit card could make a ton of sense.

Not only can a United credit card help you earn MileagePlus miles faster, but you might also get a few handy perks, including free checked bags.

At the moment, United Airlines offers a handful of co-branded United credit cards for individuals or small business owners. But, how do you know which United Airlines credit cards are best?

Our guide aims to help you compare options so you wind up with the right airline credit card for your needs and your travel goals.

See related: United MileagePlus Dining Guide

Here’s the roundup:
United Gateway Card

  • Best card for big United spenders: Chase United Club Infinite Card
  • Best card for frequent flyers: Chase United Explorer Card
  • Best card for small business owners: United Business Card
  • Best card for frequent business travelers: United Club Business Card
  • Guide to United Airlines credit cards

    Compare fees, rewards, perks and extras:  Select the credit card you’re interested in…   Chase United ExplorerChase United Club Infinite CardChase United Business CardChase United Club Business Card

    United Explorer Card

    Annual fee
    • $95, waived the first year
    Sign-up bonus
    • 70,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
    In-flight discount
    • 25%
    No foreign transaction fees
    • Yes
    Extra bonus on certain categories
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines, hotel and restaurant purchases, including delivery services like Caviar, DoorDash, Grubhub and Seamless
    • 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else
    Limit on miles earned
    • No
    First checked bag free
    • Yes, for you and a companion on the same reservation
    Priority boarding
    • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
    Reduced mileage awards
    • No
    Redeem miles rebate
    • No
    Benefits
    • 2 United Club one-time passes
    • Tickets bought using miles eligible for free upgrades
    • Trip delay, baggage and auto rental insurance
    • Concierge service
    • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi and meal/spa credits
    Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
    • Yes, up to $100 every four years
    Card network
    • Visa

    Chase United Club Infinite Card

    Anual fee
    • $525, waived first year
    Sign-up bonus
    • None
    In-flight discount
    • 25%
    No foreign transaction fees
    • Yes
    Extra bonus on certain categories
    • 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on dining
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on all other travel (including other airlines)
    • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
    Limit on miles earned
    • No
    First checked bag free
    • Yes, 2 bags for you and 2 for a companion on the same reservation
    Priority boarding
    • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
    Reduced mileage awards
    • No
    Redeem miles rebate
    • No
    Benefits
    • United Club and Star Alliance lounge membership
    • Priority check-in and screening
    • Waived fees on last-minute tickets bought with miles
    • Miles tickets eligible for free upgrades
    • Trip delay, baggage and auto rental insurance
    • Concierge service
    • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including free breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi and meal/spa credits
    Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
    • Yes, up to $100 every four years
    Card network
    • Visa

    Chase United Business Card

    Annual fee
    • $99, waived the first year
    Sign-up bonus
    • 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in first 3 months
    In-flight discount
    • 25%
    No foreign transaction fees
    • Yes
    Extra bonus on certain categories
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines, restaurant, gas and office supplies purchases
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on transit and commute purchases, including taxis, tolls and rideshares
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
    Limit on miles earned
    • No
    First checked bag free
    • Yes, for you and a companion on the same reservation
    Priority boarding
    • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
    Reduced mileage awards
    • No
    Redeem miles rebate
    • No
    Benefits
    • 2 United Club one-time passes
    • 5,000 bonus miles on your account anniversary if you have both a United Business Card and personal United card
    • $100 annual United travel credit after 7 United flight purchases of $100 or more
    • Trip, baggage and car rental insurance
    Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
    • No
    Card network
    • Visa

    Chase United Club Business Card

    Annual fee
    • $450
    Sign-up bonus
    • 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in first 3 months
    In-flight discount
    • 25%
    No foreign transaction fees
    • Yes
    Extra bonus on certain categories
    • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases
    • 1.5 miles per dollar spent on everything else
    Limit on miles earned
    • No
    First checked bag free
    • Yes, 2 bags for you and 2 for a companion on the same reservation
    Priority boarding
    • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
    Reduced mileage awards
    • No
    Redeem miles rebate
    • No
    Benefits
    • United Club and Star Alliance membership
    • Priority check-in and screening
    • Concierge service
    • Trip, baggage and car rental insurance
    • Discoverist status in World of Hyatt loyalty program
    • President’s Circle Elite status in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards loyalty program
    • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, dining/spa credits and upgrades
    Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
    • No
    Card network
    • Visa

    Lifetime Globalist

    How to qualify
    • 1,000,000 base points over the course of your membership
    Base-point rate
    • 6.5 points/$1
    Benefits
    • Receive Globalist benefits indefinitely, with no requirement to qualify for status each year

     

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    Best United Airlines credit card with no annual fee: United Gateway Card

    If you’re looking for a United rewards card with no annual fee, the United Gateway Card is the best (and only) option to consider. This card starts you off with 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. You also earn:

    • 2 miles per $1 on United flights, purchases made at gas stations and on transit and commuting
    • 1 miles per $1 on all other purchases

    As an added bonus, you’ll even rack up 3 miles per $1 on up to $1,500 in grocery store spending per month through Sept. 30, 2021. Aside from not charging an annual fee, other United Airlines credit card benefits include 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. That means this card is rather limited in terms of perks, but that’s par for the course when it comes to credit cards with no annual fee.

    Best United Airlines credit card for frequent flyers: United Explorer Card

    Frequent flyers would be better off with a United credit card with more benefits, which they’ll find with the United Explorer Card. First off, you can earn 70,000 bonus miles – 60,000 when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open and another 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $6,000 in total purchases in the first six months of account opening. In terms of daily spending, you can rack up:

    • 2 miles per $1 on United purchases, dining including delivery and takeout and hotels booked directly
    • 1 mile per $1 spent on other purchases

    United Airlines credit card benefits you’ll receive include two United Club passes, a first free checked bag, a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, priority boarding, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. Not only are these perks ideal for frequent United flyers who want a convenient travel experience, but they can help cardholders save money, too. This card does charge a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year.

    Best United Airlines credit card for big United spenders: United Club Infinite Card

    If you’re a big United spender and you fly with the airline all the time, you’ll probably want a card that lets you rack up a ton of miles while also affording you a comfortable travel experience. The United Club Infinite Card is perfect in either case. This card replaced an older version of the United Club Card, but it offers even better rewards and perks designed with luxury travelers in mind.

    As a cardholder, you’ll earn:

    • 4 miles per $1 spent with United Airlines
    • 2 miles per $1 spent on dining (including takeout and delivery) and travel
    • 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

    In terms of perks, you won’t be disappointed. Not only does this card give you membership in the airline’s United Club lounges ($650 value), but if you travel internationally, you will be able to access lounges for any airlines that are part of the Star Alliance, including Aer Lingus, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa. Meanwhile, you also get two free checked bags for yourself and a traveling companion on the same reservation, as well as priority check in, priority boarding, priority securing screening, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. You’ll also get a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership.

    There is one major downside to this card: It comes with a $525 annual fee and there is no sign-up bonus. On the bright side, the annual fee is waived for your first year.

    See related: When is a credit card annual fee worth it?

    Best United Airlines credit card for small business

    If you’re a small business owner, you may also want to apply for one of the two United Airlines credit cards for business. The United Business Card is a good option for small business owners who travel for work or for leisure a few times per month, and this is due to its cardholder benefits and low annual fee.

    You’ll start off by earning 60,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll also earn:

    • 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, dining including takeout and delivery, gas stations, office supply stores, local transit and commuting
    • 1 mile per $1 spent on other purchases

    Like all good United Airlines credit card offers, the United Business Card also comes with a handful of perks which include 5,000 miles on your cardholder anniversary each year when you carry a business credit card and a personal credit card from United Airlines. You’ll also receive two one-time United Club passes, a first checked bag free, priority boarding, a $100 United travel credit when you make at least seven purchases of $100 or more with United each year, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees. A $99 annual fee applies, but it’s waived the first year.

    Best United Airlines credit card for business travelers

    Finally, United Airlines offers a business credit card that is perfect for frequent business travelers who want to earn a ton of miles and score lounge access when they fly. The United Club Business Credit Card starts you off with 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You’ll also rack up:

    • 2 miles per $1 spent United purchases
    • 1.5 miles on everything else

    While this card does have a $450 annual fee, you’ll get plenty of value when it comes to the perks you receive. Not only will you get a United Club membership valued at $650, but you’ll get a first and second free checked bag, priority check-in, security screening and baggage handling, 25% off in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees.

    Who should get a United Airlines credit card?

    The best United Airlines credit card offers make it easy to rack up miles for each dollar you spend, and most offer a generous bonus when you meet a minimum spending requirement. With that being said, United Airlines credit cards are really best for people who are loyal to the airline, or those who live in a United hub and wind up flying with the airline often by default.

    If you aren’t loyal to United Airlines or you want more options when it comes to cashing in your points, you may also want to consider a Chase travel credit card that lets you transfer your points to United at a 1:1 ratio, or redeem for other types of travel.

    As an example, both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card* let you earn points you can transfer to United, as well as other airline and hotel partners like Southwest, British Airways, Emirates, World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy and more. Chase credit cards also let you redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which gives you even more flexibility.

    See related: How to earn and use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

    How much are United miles worth?

    Based on our internal comparisons, United miles are worth approximately 1.5 cents each. This means that, generally speaking, 60,000 miles are worth approximately $900. However, keep in mind that you may get more value if you redeem miles for premium flights or international flights.

    Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get significant value out of your United miles, whether you want to travel the world or enjoy a relaxing trip closer to home.

    *All information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. This offer is no longer available on our site.

    Source: creditcards.com

    2020 Could Be an Unprofitable Year for Rental Properties. Here’s How to Handle the Taxes

    beach house Darwin Brandis/Getty Images

    Economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis and civil unrest could cause many rental real estate properties to run up tax losses in 2020 and maybe beyond. This column covers the most important federal income tax questions and answers for rental property owners. Here goes.

    What can I write off?

    Nothing new here. You can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on rental properties. You can also write off all standard operating expenses that go along with owning rental property: utilities, insurance, repairs and maintenance, care and maintenance of outdoor areas, and so forth.

    What about depreciation write-offs?

    For many rental property owners, the tax-saving bonus is the fact that you can depreciate the cost of residential buildings over 27.5 years, even while they are (you hope) increasing in value. You can generally depreciate the cost of commercial buildings over 39 years.

    Example: You own a small apartment building that cost $1.5 million not including the land. The annual depreciation deduction is $54,545 ($1.5 million/27.5). The deduction can shelter that much annual positive cashflow from income taxes. So, depreciation write-offs are nice tax-savers, especially if you own an expensive property or several properties.

    Variation: As stated earlier, commercial buildings must be depreciated over a much-longer 39-year period. Even so, the annual depreciation write-off for a $1.5 million commercial building is $38,462. The deduction can shelter that much annual cash flow from income taxes.

    Can I claim 100% first-year bonus depreciation?

    Yes, for qualified improvement property (QIP) expenditures on a nonresidential building. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) included a retroactive correction to the statutory language of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The correction allows much faster depreciation for commercial real estate qualified improvement property (QIP) that’s placed in service in 2018-2022. QIP is defined as an improvement to an interior portion of a nonresidential building that’s placed in service after the building was placed in service. However, QIP doesn’t include any expenditures attributable to: (1) enlarging the building, (2) any elevator or escalator, or (3) the internal structural framework of the building. Thanks to the CARES Act correction, you can write off the entire cost of QIP in Year 1, because it qualifies for 100% first-year bonus depreciation.

    Alternatively, you can choose to depreciate QIP over 15 years using the straight-line method. That alternative might make sense if you expect higher tax rates in future years. Discuss your QIP depreciation options with your tax pro.

    What else do I need to know about depreciation write-offs?

    You ask such good questions. There’s more. The TCJA increased the maximum Section 179 first-year depreciation deduction for qualifying real property expenditures to $1 million, with annual inflation adjustments. The inflation-adjusted maximum for tax years beginning in 2020 is $1.04 million. The Section 179 deduction privilege potentially allows you to deduct the entire cost of qualifying real property expenditures in Year 1. I say potentially, because Section 179 deductions are subject to several limitations. Ask your tax pro for details.

    The TCJA also expanded the definition of qualifying property to include expenditures for nonresidential building roofs, HVAC equipment, fire protection and alarm systems, and security systems.

    Finally, the TCJA further expanded the definition of qualifying property to include depreciable tangible personal property used predominantly to furnish lodging. Examples of such property include beds, other furniture, and appliances used in the living quarters of an apartment house.

    Can I claim the qualified business income (QBI) deduction base on my net rental income?

    Maybe. For 2018-2025, the TCJA established a new personal deduction based on qualified business income (QBI) passed through to your personal Form 1040 from a pass-through business entity (meaning a sole proprietorship, LLC treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes, partnership, LLC treated as a partnership for tax purposes, or S corporation). The deduction can be up to 20% of QBI, subject to restrictions that kick in at higher income levels. For a while, it was unclear if you could claim QBI deductions based on net rental income passed through to you from one of the aforementioned pass-through entities. The IRS eventually issued taxpayer-friendly guidance that allows QBI deductions in most such cases, but you must follow complicated rules to collect the tax-saving benefit. As your tax pro for details.

    What about the passive loss rules?

    Ugh. If your rental property throws off tax losses (most properties do, at least during the early years and during years when the economy is suffering — like now), things can get complicated. The so-called passive activity loss (PAL) rules may come into play. Losses from rental properties will usually be classified as passive losses.

    In general, the PAL rules only allow you to currently deduct passive losses to the extent you have current passive income from other sources, like positive income from other rental properties or gains from selling them. Passive losses in excess of passive income are suspended until you either have enough passive income or you sell the property that produced the losses. Bottom line: the PAL rules can postpone any tax-saving benefit from rental property losses, sometimes for years. Fortunately, there are several exceptions to the PAL rules that can allow you to deduct rental property losses sooner rather than later. Your tax pro can explain the exceptions and help you plan to become eligible, if possible.

    Is that the end of the bad news?

    Not exactly. Say you manage to successfully clear the hurdles imposed by the PAL rules for your rental property losses. So far, so good. But the TCJA established another hurdle that you must also clear to currently deduct those losses. For tax years beginning in 2018-2025, you cannot deduct an excess business loss in the current year. An excess business loss is one that exceeds $250,000 or $500,000 for a married joint-filing couple. Any excess business loss is carried over to the following tax year and can be deducted under the rules for net operating loss (NOL) carry-forwards. This loss disallowance rule applies after applying the PAL rules. So, if the PAL rules disallow your rental losses, this rule is a nonfactor.

    COVID-19 Relief: Thankfully, the CARES Act suspends the excess business loss disallowance rule for losses that arise in tax years beginning in 2018-2020. That’s good news.

    What’s the deal with net operation losses (NOLs)?

    Say you manage to successfully clear both of the preceding hurdles for your rental property losses. Now we are talking, because you can generally use those losses currently to offset taxable income from other sources. If losses for the year exceed income from other sources, you may have a net operating loss (NOL) for the year.

    COVID-19 Relief: The CARES Act allows a five-year carryback privilege for an NOL that arises in a tax year beginning in 2018-2020. So, you can carry an NOL from one of those years back to an earlier year, deduct it, and recover some or all of the federal income tax paid for the carryback year. Because federal income tax rates were generally higher in years before the TCJA took effect, NOLs carried back to those years can be especially beneficial. The TCJA kicked in starting with tax years beginning in 2018.

    What if I have positive taxable income?

    Eventually your rental property should start throwing off positive taxable income instead of losses, because escalating rents will surpass your deductible expenses. Of course, you must pay income taxes on those profits. But if you piled up suspended passive losses in earlier years, you can now use them to offset your passive profits.

    Another nice thing: positive taxable income from rental real estate is not hit with the dreaded self-employment (SE) tax, which applies to most other unincorporated profit-making ventures. The SE tax rate can be up to 15.3%. Something to avoid when possible.

    One bad thing: positive passive income from rental real estate owned by a higher-income individual can get socked with the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), and gains from selling properties can also get hit with the NIIT. Ask your tax pro for details.

    The bottom line

    There you have it: most of what you need to know about the federal income tax issues that can come into play for rental property owners. The economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis and recent civil unrest increase the odds that rental properties will suffer losses in 2020, but tax relief provisions may soften the blow.

    The post 2020 Could Be an Unprofitable Year for Rental Properties. Here’s How to Handle the Taxes appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

    Source: realtor.com

    6 Essentials for an In-Home Movie Theater

    While winter weather can make going outside seem less than inviting, you can entertain your family indoors with your favorite movies and shows in a home theater. With a little help, your theater setup might make the cold a little more bearable. Here are six must-haves for your home theater.

    1. Theater Seating
    Comfortable leather recliners with cushy armrests are a staple of any home theater. The amount of seats is reliant on the size of your space; viewers shouldn’t feel too cramped. Also, the distance you place them from your screen depends on the screen’s size. An easy way to determine seat distance is to take the horizontal length of your screen and multiply it by two to get the minimum distance. Multiply it by five to get the maximum distance. For example: A 60-inch screen would have a minimum distance of 120 inches, or ten feet, and a maximum distance of 300 inches, or 25 feet.

    2. Video Projector
    Installing a quality video projector can ensure that you and your viewers enjoy the best picture possible. Pay attention to the projector’s throw distance, or the distance at which it should be placed away from your screen. Also, consider how far down you should hang your projector and at what angle to tilt it. Most projectors have vertical lens shift, which allows you to adjust the projection regardless of how you mount your projector. For those that don’t, hang your projector with an extension pipe so that you can adjust the hanging distance to perfect the projected image.

    3. Projector Screen and Lighting
    For screen placement, pick a wall where light does not fall on it directly. You can even paint your walls a dark color to avoid glare. Mount the screen on your wall so the bottom is between two or three feet off the ground. This helps every seat in your theater achieve the perfect view. Try adding dimmable overhead lights to add an authentic cinema feeling.

    4. Surround Sound
    The most common speaker system for home theaters is 5.1 surround sound. This six-speaker system is comprised of five full-range speakers and one low-range speaker known as the woofer. The ideal setup for 5.1 surround sound is three speakers and the woofer toward the front of the room, with the remaining two on either side of the back end of the room. Place each speaker at least 20 inches from the wall. If six speakers seem excessive, try a simple three speaker setup with a speaker in front of your screen and two others to the left and right.

    5. Sound Paneling and Acoustics
    Rectangular windowless rooms generally have better acoustics than square ones, but you might not be able to remodel just for your home theater. Sound absorption panels to prevent echoes, although standard dry wall paneling is usually adequate acoustic material for home theaters. Installing carpeting may also improve the acoustics of your in-home theater and add a level of comfort for viewers.

    6. Mini Fridge
    Keep a small refrigerator in your home theater and stock it with refreshments that are easily accessible. After all, you won’t have to stand in line and worry about missing your movie when you’re home! You may also want to stock old movie favorites like popcorn and candy in a non-refrigerated unit in the theater. Just don’t eat too loudly during the movie.

    With these home theater features, being snowed in this winter might not seem so bad!

    The post 6 Essentials for an In-Home Movie Theater first appeared on Century 21®.

    Source: century21.com

    Self-Employed and Applying for a Mortgage? Here’s What’s Changed Since COVID-19

    Woman looking at computer valentinrussanov/Getty Images

    The gig economy has blown up in the past few years, with more and more people choosing to work as freelancers, either by starting their own businesses, or by picking up nonsalaried jobs from bigger companies.

    According to the Freelancers Union, over 50 million Americans worked this year as freelancers, a number that represents roughly 35% of the country’s workforce.

    While freelancing undoubtedly has its perks, helping you get a mortgage is not one of them.

    Since COVID-19 started tearing through the country in March, we’ve heard reports of freelancers having an even harder time getting approved for mortgages. Here’s the latest on what to expect when applying for mortgage as a freelancer in the post-coronavirus era.

    Getting a mortgage as a freelancer (pre-coronavirus)

    Before diving into what’s changed for freelancers applying for mortgages in the COVID-19 era, let’s back up to what it was like before the pandemic.

    According to Todd Huettner of Huettner Capital, the two most important things self-employed borrowers (which includes freelancers, independent contractors, business owners, and sole proprietors) historically needed for mortgage applications were: two years of tax returns, and proof their business was in operation.

    “Depending on timing, if you were more than six months into the following year, you may have also needed an unaudited profit-and-loss statement for the business,” says Huettner.

    That’s exactly what it sounds like: a financial statement that records all the losses and gains of a business over a period of time.

    Besides tax returns and proof that your business was up and running, lenders also had basic requirements for any borrower (self-employed or otherwise), which included things like a minimum credit score and maximum debt-to-income ratio.

    “Most people don’t realize this and think there are totally different rules,” says Huettner. “But the main difference is that as a freelancer, you just had to document the income.”

    What’s changed

    The main thing that’s changed for freelancers applying for a mortgage is that the need for documentation has increased—by a lot.

    Because of the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, lenders are being extra careful when it comes to determining who actually qualifies for these mortgages, and whether they can realistically repay them.

    “In the past, we could simply use the prior year’s tax returns,” says Todd Wells of Sinberg Capital Lending.

    “There’s more documentation required post-COVID for self-employed borrowers. Now, we need a year-to-date profit and loss statement, as well as business bank statements to support the profit and loss statement.”

    In other words, lenders need a lot more proof that you’re in a good position to take on that mortgage, and providing that proof could be a major pain, to say the least.

    How to increase your chances of getting approved

    Beyond doing all the usual things to increase your chances of getting approved (like boosting your credit score and improving your debt-to-income ratio), freelancers should also be prepared to jump through a few extra administrative hoops to that prove their income really is what they say it is.

    This will include things like getting those profit and loss (also called P&L) statements ready, and possibly even pulling some bank statements to back them up. And while some lenders might allow you to get by with just an audited P&L statement, that may not be any easier.

    “Most people don’t have a clue about the time and cost of obtaining an audited financial statement,” says Huettner.

    “Most CPAs don’t provide this service—it’s a very specific process with a lot of requirements. The result is that it can cost thousands of dollars and take several weeks or months to finish.”

    In today’s hot seller’s market, taking weeks or months to get approved would be simply out of the question.

    That’s why many freelancers (when given the option by their lender) are choosing to prepare unaudited P&L statements as well as bank statements to prove their income.

    Since this can take several hours (and plenty of fishing around in your various accounts) to complete, it’s a good idea to have these things ready before you need them.

    “Have complete and accurate documentation going back as far as you can, 24 months if possible,” advises one former banker, Karen Condor of ExpertInsuranceReviews.com.

    “This will prove that you can consistently afford loan payments. The higher your FICO credit score and the more robust your income documentation, the higher the chance of loan approval.”

    The final word

    Is it harder for freelancers to get approved for mortgages in the COVID-19 era? Yes and no. If your business has been consistently doing well and you have the documentation to prove it, you might be just fine.

    But if you’ve recently hit a slowdown, or are having issues producing the extra proof of income, then getting that mortgage for your dream home might be harder than you thought.

    The post Self-Employed and Applying for a Mortgage? Here’s What’s Changed Since COVID-19 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

    Source: realtor.com

    A Guide To Everything You Need To Know About Home Ownership Costs [Free Download]

    Along with the excitement of purchasing a new home, comes the additional costs that you will be expected to pay as a homeowner. Apart from covering the mortgage of your home, you’ll have additional expenses – such as home insurance – that you will be expected to cover. If you’re looking to budget for a home purchase, it’s important that you consider these costs as they can add up to thousands of dollars each year.

    To help you make educated decisions when budgeting, we’ve compiled a list of the major home ownership costs in one free, downloadable guide. Get the Home Ownership Costs to Consider guide here.

    Home Insurance

    Home insurance policies help protect against serious damage and destruction, like fires, leaks, floods, or break-ins. It also protects a homeowner from personal liability. Some banks may offer home insurance products, although you can typically purchase a home insurance policy through a home insurance agent or broker. 

    Tip: You may get better rates if you use a broker or agent. It’s also important to keep in mind that policies typically renew on an annual basis.

    Condo Fees

    The cost of maintenance fees should be taken into account when you’re buying a condo. This recurring cost is in addition to your mortgage and impacts how much home you can afford. 

    Your mandatory monthly fee will vary by your building and square footage. It typically covers:

    • Utilities (such as water and garbage collection)
    • Building insurance
    • Maintenance of common areas (such as the gym, pool, front desk, hallways, landscaping)
    • Building reserve fund (covers emergencies and long-term maintenance projects such as a new roof or elevators repairs)

    What Are Status Certificates?

    If you’re looking to purchase a condo, you’ll want to look into obtaining a status certificate so that you have as much information about the building and your unit as possible before buying. A status certificate provides valuable information about the condo corporation and its financial

    situation. It includes details on the budget, legal issues, the reserve fund, maintenance fees, and any fee increases expected in the future. 

    Tip: You’ll want to carefully review your status certificate with your lawyer before making a purchase.

    Property Tax

    Property taxes are paid annually by homeowners to their municipality. These taxes are ongoing and are separate from your mortgage. Your annual property tax can often be paid in installments.

    Tip: It’s important to remember that this cost is not due at closing, but is a recurring cost.

    How Are Property Taxes Calculated?

    Your property tax rate will vary depending on the value of your property as assessed by your provincial assessment authority. This is then multiplied by a rate that falls between 0.5% to 2.5%.

    How Do You Pay Property Taxes?

    You can pay your property taxes either through your mortgage provider or directly to your municipality. 

    Your Utility Bills

    When you purchase a home, you’ll have to set up or transfer your utility bills to your new home. If you live in a condo, these costs may be included in your monthly maintenance fee. Your utility bill will include:

    • Hydro (electricity)
    • Heat
    • Water and Garbage
    • Internet, Phone, Cable

    For the full details on the home buyer’s journey including examples, advice, pictures and sample calculations, download a copy of our free Home Ownership Costs to Consider Guide here.

    The post A Guide To Everything You Need To Know About Home Ownership Costs [Free Download] appeared first on Zoocasa Blog.

    Source: zoocasa.com

    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 Rampant Mortgage Myths You’ll Hear These Days—Completely Debunked

    Woman looking at financial papers urbazon / Getty Images

    These days, things are changing so fast, it’s tough to keep up. That’s especially true in the mortgage industry, where interest rates and the overall home loan landscape are shifting with such head-spinning speed, it’s easy for outdated information to circulate, leading home buyers and homeowners astray.

    You may have heard, for instance, that everyone can score a record-low interest rate, or that refinancing is a no-brainer, or that mortgage forbearance means you don’t have to pay back your loan, ever. Sorry, but none of these rumors is true—and falling for them could cost you dearly.

    To help home buyers and homeowners separate fact from fiction, we asked experts to highlight some rampant mortgage mistruths out there today. Whether you’re looking to buy or refinance, these are some reality checks you’ll be glad to know.

    Myth No. 1: Everyone qualifies for low interest rates

    There’s a lot of buzz about record-low mortgage interest rates lately. Most recently, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 2.88% for the week of Aug. 6, according to Freddie Mac.

    This is great news for borrowers, but here’s the rub: “Not everyone will qualify for the lowest rates,” explains Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®.

    So who stands to get the best rates? Namely, borrowers with a good credit score, Hale says. Most lenders require a minimum credit score of about 620. Some lenders might require an even higher threshold (more on that later).

    Your credit score isn’t the only factor affecting what interest rate you get. It also depends on the size of your down payment, type of home, type of loan, and much more. So, keep your expectations in check, and make sure to shop around to increase the odds you’ll get a good rate.

    Myth No. 2: Getting a mortgage today is easy

    Many assume today’s low interest rates mean that getting a mortgage will be a breeze. On the contrary, these low rates mean just about everyone is trying to get a mortgage, or refinance the one they have. This glut of applicants, combined with the uncertain economy, means some lenders may actually tighten loan requirements.

    In fact, a realtor.com analysis found that 5% to 20% of potential borrowers may struggle to get a mortgage because of these stricter standards. And getting a mortgage could become even tougher if the recession gets worse.

    For example, some lenders may also require higher minimum credit scores and larger down payments. In April, JPMorgan Chase began requiring a 700 minimum credit score and 20% down payment.

    Jason Lee, executive vice president and director of capital markets at Flagstar Bank, says some lenders aren’t offering the loans that are considered riskier—such as jumbo loans, which exceed the conforming loan limit (for 2020, that max is $510,400).

    “There aren’t as many loan products available,” Lee says.

    And even if you do manage to get a loan, it may take longer than you’d typically expect.

    “Based on low rates and a high volume of refinances, loans are taking longer to complete from application to closing,” says Staci Titsworth, a regional mortgage manager for PNC Bank.

    As such, borrowers should ask their lender how long the process will take to close, and make sure they’re aware of the expiration date on the interest rate they’ve locked in—since with rates this low, they could go up.

    “Most lenders are locking in the customer’s interest rate so it’s protected from market fluctuations,” Titsworth adds.

    Myth No. 3: Everyone should refinance their mortgage

    “With mortgage rates hovering near record lows, a refinance can make sense and can help free up monthly cash flow,” Hale says.

    Still, not everyone should refinance. Homeowners should make sure to take a good hard look at their situation to see whether it makes sense for them.

    For one, it will depend on your current interest rate. If it’s low already, it may not be worth the trouble—particularly since refinancing comes with fees amounting to around 2% to 6% of your loan amount.

    Given these upfront costs, refinancing often makes sense only if you plan to remain in your house for a while.

    In general, “refinancing is a good idea for homeowners who plan to live in the same home for several years, because they will reap the monthly savings over a longer time period,” Hale explains.

    Myth No. 4: You can apply for a mortgage after you’ve found a home

    Many people assume that you can find your dream home first, then apply for the mortgage. But that’s backward—now more than ever. Today, your first stop when shopping for a house should be a mortgage lender or broker, who can get you pre-approved for a home loan.

    For “a buyer in a competitive market, it’s typically essential to have pre-approval done in order to submit an offer, so getting it done before you even look at homes is a smart move that will enable a buyer to move fast to put an offer in on the right home,” Hale says.

    Mortgage pre-approval is all the more essential in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. Why? Because many home sellers, leery of letting just anyone tour their home, want to know a buyer is serious—and has the cash and financing to make a firm offer. As such, some real estate agents and sellers require a pre-approval letter before a potential buyer can view a home in person.

    Nonetheless, according to a realtor.com survey conducted in June of over 2,000 active home shoppers who plan to purchase a home in the next 12 months, only 52% obtained a pre-approval letter before beginning their home search, which means nearly half of home buyers are missing this crucial piece of paperwork.

    Aside from getting their foot in the door of homes they want to see, home buyers benefit from pre-approval in other ways. Since pre-approval lets you know exactly how much money a lender will loan you, it also helps you target the right homes within your budget.

    After all, as Lee points out, “You don’t want to get your heart set on a home only to find out you can’t afford it.”

    Myth No. 5: Mortgage forbearance means you don’t have to pay back your loan

    The record unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means millions of Americans have struggled to pay their mortgages. To get some relief, many have been granted mortgage forbearance.

    Nearly 8% of mortgages, or 3.8 million homeowners, were in forbearance as of July 26, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

    The problem? Many mistakenly assume that mortgage forbearance means you won’t have to pay your loan, period. But forbearance means different things for different homeowners, depending on the terms of the mortgage and what type of arrangement was worked out with the lender.

    “Forbearance is not forgiveness,” Lee says. “Rather, it’s a timeout from having to make a mortgage payment where your servicer—the company you send your mortgage payments to—will ensure that negative impacts to your credit report and late fees will not occur. However, because forbearance is not forgiveness, you will need to reach some sort of resolution with your loan servicer about the missed payments.”

    The paused payments may be added to the back end of the loan or repaid over time.

    “It does not forgive the payments, meaning the borrower still owes the money,” Hale says. “The specifics of when payments need to be made up will vary from borrower to borrower.”

    The post 5 Rampant Mortgage Myths You’ll Hear These Days—Completely Debunked appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

    Source: realtor.com