Using credit cards to boost your finances
Having the right credit card in one’s wallet can help to execute not only your personal resolutions but your professional goals. Whether the challenge is to pay off debt, save money, take more vacations, or start a business, certain credit cards can help achieve each goal.
Julie Myhre, Editor at leading consumer resource NextAdvisor.com, offers below in her own words the best credit cards for each resolution, including unbiased reviews of each card’s features.
Best credit card for paying off debt: Slate from Chase
If you’re looking to pay off credit card debt, then Slate from Chase is the perfect card for you because it not only offers 0% APR for the first 15 months on balance transfers and purchases, but also a $0 balance transfer fee if you do the balance transfer within the first 60 days of account opening. Transferring your balance to the Slate from Chase credit card allows you to put more money to the principal balance — as opposed to the interest — and pay off your debt in a shorter amount of time.
Best credit card for saving money: BankAmericard Cash Rewards
For those looking to save money, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards is the best option because it not only allows you to earn cash back on purchases but also provides you with a 0% APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases and balance transfers. With the BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card, you earn 1% cash back on all purchases, 2% cash back on groceries and 3% cash back on gas for the first $1500 combined gas and grocery purchases each quarter. And the best part about this credit card is that the rewards don’t expire, so you can let them build up throughout the year and cash them out all at once.
Best credit card for taking more vacations: Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard
If your resolution is to take more vacations in 2014, then the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard is an excellent card for you. It allows you to earn 2% of all your spending in statement credits to spend on any travel purchases. Not only will you earn twice the miles on all your purchases, but you will also earn 10% in miles for every “pay for travel” redemption you make. This means that if you redeem 10,000 miles for a trip, you earn 1,000 miles back in rewards. On top of that, Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard gives you40,000 bonus miles (equivalent to $400 to spend on travel) if you spend $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening the card, and provides you with a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 months after opening the account.
Best credit card for starting a business: Chase Ink Cash Business Card
If 2014 is the year you want to start your own business, then the Chase Ink Cash Business Card is the best credit card for you because it will allow you to earn cash on purchases that every new business needs to make, as well as save you money with a 0% APR for 6 months on purchases and balance transfers. With Chase Ink, you can earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at office supply stores, on cell phones, landlines, Internet and cable TV services; 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent annually at gas stations and restaurants; and 1% cash back on all other purchases with no limit on the amount you can earn. This means that you can get all of the necessary supplies for your business while you earn cash rewards.
Small business owners furious over more PPP fraud this week
(FINANCE) With rampant fraud and huge companies receiving aid intended for small business… Who is the Payment Protection Program really protecting?
Small business owners are furious this week after yet another fraudulent PPP (Payment Protection Program) loan application was discovered. The program, which was originally conceived to protect small businesses with providing federal loans, was a part of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, which was passed by Congress in March.
The application came from Houston resident Lola Shalewa Barbara Kasali (22) for almost $2 million. Kasali claimed she owned two small businesses – Lola’s Level and Charm Hair Extensions – and applied for two separate loans to cover her alleged employees and payroll expenses.
After receiving $1.9 million in loans, Kasali transferred the money to various other bank accounts. She was charged with fraud earlier this week.
Unfortunately, cases of PPP fraud are rampant, meaning that the funds allotted for struggling small businesses in the time of COVID-19 are being misused. While it’s easy to call out individuals who are scamming the system, we are seeing that everyone – even the rich – are trying to get a piece of this pie.
In April, fast casual giant Shake Shack returned their $10 million PPP back to the government in what many saw as a media stunt. Why did a multi-billion-dollar company apply to a program meant for small businesses anyway?
The same can be said about the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, the team does employ under 300 individuals. But do the wealthy members of a professional basketball team really need additional funds while the rest of the working class suffers?
Additionally, over 10,000 PPP loans were mistakenly dispersed to businesses that had already received a loan or those who were excluded from the program for various reasons.
Initially, the SBA put $349 billion into the program. Due to extremely high need – and many cases of mismanagement or fraud, like those mentioned earlier – the funds went in a flash. Though the SBA did replenish the Paycheck Protection Program with an additional $310 billion in April, the program expired on August 8th. And currently there is no solid plan to extend it, leaving small businesses to fend for themselves.
Another factor to consider regarding the faults of Payment Protection Program is the inherent discrimination. Experts say that, because of how the program is structured, more than 90% of businesses owned by women and people of color are or will be excluded from receiving funds from PPP. Our best bet for the time being is to help each other on a community level as much as we can.
Small businesses: CapitalOne, GoFundMe want to give you money
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Capital One, GoFundMe, and others are joining forces for good, providing ways for consumers to help lift up small businesses in a time of great need.
Small businesses account for around 44% of U.S. economic activity, according to USA Today. Finding a way to buoy them up now is crucial to their survival. We cannot afford to lose the 58% of small businesses who say they may go under forever.
Short of in-person shopping, how can we as consumers, help? Consumers can now help through smallunites.org, an organization pulled together to share several ways to support small businesses.
The Small Unites platform also provides ways for small business owners to connect with helpful resources, including business and marketing advice. In a surprising twist, the entities tossing this lifesaver to small businesses at risk of sinking are larger companies, including Capital One, HundredX, GoFundMe, the National Urban League, and Ogilvy, among others.
Six months after the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders were issued in the U.S., many small businesses are still struggling to stay afloat. Some are still operating through curbside or online orders only. Others are operating with a reduced capacity, limiting the number of people in their stores at any given time.
The PPP funds have been spent, as have stimulus checks, and many people are watching their budgets. Despite wishful thinking and finally some success with mask wearing, we are nowhere near a full reopening in this country. Even if it were allowed, the majority of people are still social distancing as much as possible and are finding other ways to shop – mainly online.
GoFundMe has a platform to donate money directly to a specific small business for those who can afford to. Consumers may also make a tax deductible donation to the overall fund that distributes the money through small business grants, such as the Small Business Relief Fund via GoFundMe. This money will be sent out in $500 grants to small businesses who apply and qualify.
Some people want to help but are also strapped for cash. Small Unites has come up with a way to contribute without spending or donating money. With HundredX, consumers write a review of a small business on the HundredX platform. HundredX will then donate $2.00 per review to programs in conjunction with the National Urban League to programs supporting minority-owned businesses. Each contributor is able to write up to 50 reviews for a grand total of $100.00 per person. HundredX will continue to donate per review, up to their $1M program cap.
Small business owners, things may look bleak from where you’re sitting. I urge you to seek out some of this support, provided at no cost to you. In addition to perhaps the most urgent need, money, Small Unites also provides tips and guidelines from Ogilvy to businesses that sign up for the program.
These tips include marketing, social media, and communication advice. The Small Unites website also has a “Shop” section to locate small businesses in the immediate area where consumers can shop right now.
The U.S. can’t afford to lose its small businesses. These are often unique places infused with the owner’s passion. Small businesses often support local economies, too, providing a marketplace for local makers, farmers, and other creative people. They are vital businesses, often representing the beating hearts of our communities.
For the skeptical among us, of course Capital One, GoFundMe, and the rest are going to get PR brownie points for this. That doesn’t make the assistance any less significant to saving our small businesses. Motive matters, but let’s not starve on principal. It makes no sense. Someone at these large institutions must also realize that it’s the many small businesses out there that contribute 44% of our economic activity.
Helping the mom-and-pop shops isn’t merely a publicity stunt. It strengthens our economy as a whole. This lifeline also has the ability to strengthen morale and restore hope when they are in short—or at least inconsistent—supply. Knowing that a favorite business is managing to stay afloat amid turbulent waters buoys our spirits.
Small businesses, go sign up for all of the Small Unites assistance! Everybody else, let’s all pull together, with the help of these big corporations, to try and save our small businesses. We need them for our economy. We need them for our mental health. We need them, period.
Bitcoins worth $300K recovered from an old zip file
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Losing the password to your Bitcoin wallet often means potentially losing your cryptocurrency. But this didn’t stop a Russian investor from getting his money back.
At some point in our life, we’ve all lost or misplaced something. I’ve misplaced my phone and keys more times than I can count. They always have a way of finding themselves between the couch cushions. But have you ever lost the private keys to access your $300,000 worth of bitcoins? Neither have I. However, this is exactly what happened to a very unlucky man.
Last month, Defcon’s 28th annual event took place. The event is the most influential security hacking conference held in Las Vegas. Michael Stay, a reverse engineer and current CTO for Pyrofex Corp, shared the story with attendees. He started his presentation by saying, “And today I’m gonna to tell you about how we recovered several hundred thousand dollars worth of Bitcoin from an encrypted zip file.”
About twenty years ago, Stay published a cryptanalysis paper detailing how to break into encrypted zip files. This paper led an anonymous Russian investor to find Stay and send him a surprising message on LinkedIn. “So in October of last year, a guy contacts me out of the blue and says, “I read your paper on known plaintext attacks, and I’ve got this password that I’ve forgotten. Is there anything you can do to help?”” Stay said.
In 2016, the investor purchased $10,000 worth of bitcoins and placed the private keys in an encrypted zip file. After the Bitcoin boom, the purchase proved to be a great investment. There was just one slight problem: He forgot the password and had no way of accessing the Bitcoins.
After stumbling on Stay’s old cryptanalysis paper, he hoped Stay would help him break into the zip file and recover the lost keys. When Stay looked into the case, he soon realized this would be a difficult task. The attack he had written years ago needed five files to break into the zip file. This man only had two files in the archive.
With only two files, this would take Stay a lot of time and money to find a solution to the problem. After doing some calculations, he told the guy it would cost him around $100,000 to attempt to recover the keys. He simply couldn’t use regular “off-the-shelf software” to get this done.
The man agreed without hesitation. Stay’s mind was blown away with his response. “I knew he probably had several hundred thousand dollars of Bitcoin in this thing,” he said. The pressure was on!
To break-in, Stay enlisted his business partner, Nash Foster. Foster helped adapt his CPU based attacks to run on GPUs, and they rented a GPU farm. “Our initial expectation was we would do engineering for a couple of months, and then the attack would have to run for several months to succeed,” Foster told WIRED.
Four months after the initial LinkedIn message, they began the attack. “We had tried it in all our test archives that we’d created. It worked fine,” Stay said. They were hopeful. “Ten days passed, and it didn’t find a key. And we were distraught, pulling our hair out. What have we done wrong?” Stay asked himself.
After combing through the data, the investor, who is a programmer himself, discovered a bug in the GPU. Once Stay and Foster fixed the bug, they were able to restart their attack. Within a day and a half, they found the three keys they needed to decrypt the archive.
In the end, the improvements made to Stay’s old attack made a significant difference. Instead of the $100,000 and year of processing time that Stay estimated it would take, they were able to do it for less than $10,000 in two weeks of processing time.
“Our client was very pleased and gave us a big bonus! And that’s how we recovered his Bitcoin folder,” Stay said.
According to a 2017 research by analysis company, Chainanalysis, nearly 400 million Bitcoins are already lost. Although Bitcoins have no physical form, they can still be lost. Forgotten private keys and passwords, and discarded and lost devices account for this high number.
The Russian investor wasn’t so unlucky after all!
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