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Dine Out Much? You Can Get 10% Cash Back With These New Amex Offers

American Express is enabling anyone looking to go on a restaurant binge with its latest offer for new members of its Blue Cash Preferred and Blue Cash Everyday cards. Anyone who successfully applies for either card from Feb. 28 through May 3 will get 10% cash back on purchases at restaurants in the United States within the first six months of having the card, up to $200.

New card members can also get a welcome bonus: at least $150 for Blue Cash Preferred and at least $100 for Blue Cash Everyday, if they spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account. (Make sure you read the offer details for more information.) This comes as a statement credit. The restaurant cash bonuses also come in the form of statement credits that show up on monthly billing statements within eight weeks after purchase. These bonuses come on top of the existing perks of the cards, including extra cash back on purchases at supermarkets and gas stations.

To qualify for the 10% cash back on restaurant purchases, the restaurant must be located in the United States, not merely owned by a U.S. company, like say, the Hard Rock Cafe in Paris.

So how far does this bonus go? To get the full $200, you’d have to spend $2,000 at restaurants in six months.

To get there, you’d have to order the Bloomin’ Onion (at $8.99) at Outback Steakhouse 223 times (for a total of 435,742 calories) minus tax and tip. You and your family could also order the Tour of Italy — that’s a sleep-inducing combo of chicken parmigiana, lasagna classico and fettuccini alfredo — at Olive Garden 114 times to get the $200.

If you’d like to get there in a classier (and faster) way, you need only order the $55 bone-in rib-eye steak at Capital Grille 37 times. In contrast, it would take more than 500 Big Macs, at $3.99 apiece, to earn the full bonus, or 333 if you want fries and a drink — Super Size Me indeed. At Masa in New York City, where a meal for two reportedly runs about $1,500, only a single sitting might suffice.

Aiming for this bonus might not be the most frugal choice, but if, after you get the $200, you want to stretch your dollar, we came up with a few ways you can do that, like sharing your meal and ordering off the lunch menu. Of course, before you apply for any credit card, it’s important to take a look at the fees and interest rates it carries to make sure it fits your budget. You’ll also want to check your credit (you can see two of your credit scores for free every 14 days on to get an idea of whether or not you’ll qualify. In general, rewards credit cards tend to require good credit scores of applicants.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.


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5 Ways to Boost Your Chances of a Mortgage Preapproval

Let’s be real: Rejection hurts. It’s particularly hard if you’re denied for a mortgage preapproval, which is one of the biggest hurdles in the home-buying process.

Mike and Brittany Delgado know the feeling all too well.

In 2013, the couple tried to get a mortgage preapproval and were denied. Why? Mike’s credit report showed no history or FICO score.

“This was a surprise to us,” says Brittany Delgado, adding that her husband had paid off old debts, but the couple had never taken steps to re-establish his credit.

“Our lender outlined exactly what we needed to do and told us to start small — finance some furniture or a laptop — and make payments on time to build the credit back up. She warned us it would take a while.”

The Delgados’ experience is reflected in the results of NerdWallet’s Home Buyer Reality Report 2017.

“According to our research, borrowers who don’t understand the mortgage process or don’t know enough about their own credit history tend to hit obstacles or be rejected when applying for mortgages,” says Tim Manni, mortgage expert at NerdWallet.

“Educate yourself early about how to address the major issues that will prevent you from qualifying for the right loan or the best mortgage rates.”

To avoid getting denied on a mortgage preapproval, here are five steps to take before you fill out an application:

  1. Know where you stand. Review your credit report and check your FICO score to uncover any issues and determine if you need to build your score first. Calculate how much monthly debt you are carrying and how much you owe overall.
  2. Move quickly to fix mistakes. Contact the credit reporting agencies immediately if you see any incorrect or false information on your reports. Mortgage companies generally want loans to close on time, so they’ll pay credit agencies to update your credit report quickly with a rapid rescoring service, says Joey Abdullah, a mortgage planner with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. in Arvada, Colorado.
  3. Tackle debt head-on. Pay all of your bills on time and, if possible, in full every month. Learn which debts to pay down first to better your score quickly. For example, addressing delinquent collection accounts first usually has a more immediate impact on your credit score than paying down credit cards, says Steven Bogan, regional managing director of Glendenning Mortgage Corp. in Toms River, New Jersey. After you pay off delinquent accounts, make sure you have some good credit to show. If you don’t have an open credit card or loan, establish a new line of credit to build a positive payment history for your mortgage preapproval.
  4. Show consistent income over time. Your mortgage lender will want two years’ worth of tax returns and bank statements to show consistent income deposits. This can trip up a lot of borrowers, Abdullah says. First of all, if you earn most of your income from hourly wages, commissions or bonuses, or if you’re self-employed, you’ll need to provide two years of income documentation to your lender, Abdullah says. Expect to show your bank statements, pay stubs, tax returns and other financial paperwork. “Mortgage companies don’t go off your reality, and we don’t look at gross income but rather usable income [from tax returns],” Abdullah says.
  5. Rein in spending, create a budget and stick to it. It’s crucial to control your monthly spending and avoid large purchases (like a car) to lower your debt-to-income ratio and qualify for better interest rates. Don’t forget about those inevitable maintenance and repair costs that come with homeownership; having a budget, as well as an emergency fund, is important for the long haul.
Bottom line if you fail a mortgage preapproval

Even if you are denied a mortgage, don’t lose heart, says Brittany Delgado. It took her husband two years to build up his credit. First, he financed a laptop and paid it off over 12 months. Then, he opened a credit card with a small limit, which was increased after several months of on-time payments.

Those efforts paid off. The couple was easily preapproved in 2015 for a USDA loan for a newly built home outside of Austin, Texas, where they now live with their two young sons.

“We had always dreamed of being homeowners, and we didn’t want to pay rent forever,” Delgado said. “It’s why we uprooted our family to come to Texas from California, leaving our family and everything behind. Always keep the big picture in mind.”

Deborah Kearns is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @debbie_kearns.

Is Your W-2 Tax Form Less Than Your Salary?


Every direct employee of a company receives a W-2 form in January. The W-2 is the base document that defines your tax obligations, so it is important that you review and understand yours. However, some people are confused by some of the form's numbers — for example, why the wage listed on a W-2 form does not always match salary — and simply fill in the information from each box into their tax forms without giving it a thorough review to verify that the information is correct. Employers can and do make mistakes on W-2's, and these errors can cost you money as well as time and effort to correct downstream tax ramifications. Let's take a look at the W-2 form in a bit more detail. Understanding Your W-2 Tax Forms First, verify the pertinent baseline information in the spaces labeled with letters, namely your Social Security number and both addresses (yours and your employer’s). Assuming that's correct, look at the block of eight boxes in the upper right...

It’s Time To Award Your Small Business Employees

It’s awards season! In a few days, we’ll be tuning in to watch the Oscars – The Academy Awards – which is a special occasion that acknowledges the finest achievements in the film industry from the...

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