Archives for December 2020

Play this Bubble Shooter Game for Money on Your iPhone

Popping bubbles is fun. Popping lots of bubbles is good stress relief. And shooting tons of bubbles on your iPhone screen — that’s the best.

A good bubble-shooter game can be a great time-killer. But what if you could play for money? Real money?

There’s a free iPhone and iPad app called Bubble Cash that lets you play for money. You can get paid up to $83 per win.

Blasting Bubbles for Money: How to Win up to $83/Game

You might be wondering if there’s a catch. But there’s really not. Bubble Cash is free to download and is completely skill-based. And it’s quite popular. It has more than a million downloads from the App Store and more than 12,500 ratings, averaging 4.6 stars (out of 5).

Players have won hundreds of thousands in prize money so far.

The app is free to download and play, although the cash tournaments aren’t free. However, there is a regularly scheduled “Freeroll” tournament, where users can compete for cash using only the gems that they’ve earned in the game.

Here’s an overview of how the game works: In tournaments, you compete against other players within your skill level, who all receive the same layout. Just match three bubbles of the same color, then use your finger to aim and blast them away to clear the board. The top three players in each tournament win real money — anywhere from $1 to $83.

It’s totally skill-based, so there’s no luck involved.

What You Need to Know Before You Start Playing

The game is pretty simple and straightforward — you’ll pick it up quickly — but we’ll give you some tips:

After downloading the app, you’ll start playing free games. Once you collect 120 “gems,” you can start competing in the “Freeroll” tournament, where you can win real cash.

You can speed up the process by depositing small amounts of money to compete for larger winnings — and you get extra bonus cash for each deposit. But that’s totally optional.

If you win a tournament, you can cash out through PayPal or Apple Pay.

Bubble Cash also has raffles, where players can win bonus cash and gift cards on top of their regular winnings.

Oh, and we almost forgot the best part: This app doesn’t have any annoying ads, so you don’t have to worry about your games getting interrupted.

To get started, just download the free app and start playing your first game immediately.

Cash tournaments aren’t available in the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland and South Carolina.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Painless Steps

If you want to whip your finances into shape, here’s a good New Year’s resolution: improving your credit score.

A lot of New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re so extreme. Think of all the bonkers weight-loss and money-saving goals that surface at the start of every year.

This resolution is different. No extreme measures are required. But there aren’t any shortcuts. Building good credit is a goal you need to commit to 12 months a year.

How to Build Good Credit in 10 Steps

Ready to make 2021 the year you finally prove your creditworthiness? Or are you looking to recover from a 2020 setback? Here’s how to build good credit in 10 steps.

1. Stay on Top of Your Credit Reports

It’s essential to monitor your credit reports, especially if you received a hardship agreement from a lender due to COVID-19. Under the CARES Act rules, lenders are supposed to report your account as paid in full while the agreement is in effect, as long as you weren’t already delinquent. But mistakes happen. Even in normal times, about 1 in 5 credit reports contained inaccurate information.

Through April 2021, you can get one free credit report per week from each bureau. (Typically, you’re only entitled to one free credit report per year from each bureau.) Make sure you access your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, rather than one of the many websites that offer “free” credit scores but will make you put down your credit card number to sign up for a trial. File a dispute with the bureaus if you find anything you think is inaccurate or any accounts you don’t recognize.

Your credit reports won’t show you your credit score, but you can use a free credit-monitoring service to check your score. (No, checking your own credit doesn’t hurt your score.) Many banks and credit card companies also give you your credit scores for free.

Pro Tip

If the bureaus agree to remove information from your credit reports, expect to wait about 30 days until your reports are updated.

2. Pay Your Bills. On Time. Every Single Month

Yeah, you knew we were going to say this: Paying your bills on time is the No. 1 thing you can do to build good credit. Your payment history determines 35% of your score, more than any other credit factor.

Set whatever bills you can to autopay for at least the minimums to avoid missing payments. You can always pay extra if you can afford it.

A strong payment history takes time to build. If you’ve made late payments, they’ll stay on your credit reports for seven years. The good news is, they do the most damage to your score in the first two years. After that, the impact starts to fade.

3. Establish Credit, Even if You’ve Made Mistakes

You typically need a credit card or loan to build a credit history. (Sorry, but all those on-time rent and utility payments are rarely reported to the credit bureaus, so they won’t help your score.)

But if you have bad credit or you’re a credit newbie, getting approved for a credit card or loan is tough. Look for cards that are specifically marketed to help people start or rebuild credit. Store credit cards, which only let you make purchases at a specific retailer, can also be a good option.

4. Open a Secured Card if You Don’t Qualify for a Regular Card

Opening a secured credit card is one of our favorite ways to build a positive history when you can’t get approved for a regular credit card or loan. You put down a refundable deposit, and that becomes your line of credit.

After about a year of making your payments on time, you’ll typically qualify for an unsecured line of credit. Just make sure the card issuer you choose reports your payments to the credit bureaus. Look for a card with an annual fee of no more than $35. Some secured card options we like (and no, we’re not getting paid to say this):

  • Discover it Secured
  • OpenSky Secured Visa Card
  • Secured Mastercard from Capital One
A woman checks her credit card balance while on the phone.

5. Ask for a Limit Increase. Pretend You Never Got It

Increasing your credit limits helps your score because it decreases your credit utilization ratio. That’s credit score speak for the percentage of credit you’re using. The standard recommendation is to keep this number below 30%, but really, the closer to zero the better.

If you have open credit, ask your current creditors for an increase, rather than applying for new credit. That way, you’ll avoid lowering your length of credit, which could ding your score.

The downside of a higher credit limit: You’ll have more money to spend that isn’t really yours. To get the biggest credit score boost from a limit increase and avoid paying more in interest, make sure you don’t add to your balance.

Pro Tip

Don’t believe the myth that carrying a small credit card balance helps your credit score. Paying off your balance in full each month is best for your score, plus it saves you money on interest.

6. Prioritize Credit Card Debt Over Loans

Tackling credit card debt helps your credit score a lot more than paying down other debts, like a student loan or mortgage. The reason? Your credit utilization ratio is determined exclusively by your lines of credit.

Bonus: Paying off credit card debt first will typically save you money, because credit cards tend to have higher interest rates than other types of debt.

7. Keep Your Old Accounts Active

Provided you aren’t paying ridiculous fees, keep your credit card accounts open once you’ve paid off the balance. Credit scoring methods reward you for having a long credit history.

Make a purchase at least once every three months on the account, as credit card companies often close inactive accounts. Then pay it off in full.

8. Apply for New Credit Selectively

When you apply for credit, it results in a hard inquiry, which usually drops your score by a few points. So avoid applying frequently for new credit cards, as this can signal financial distress.

But if you’re in the market for a mortgage or loan, don’t worry about multiple inquiries. As long as you limit your shopping to a 45-day window, credit bureaus will treat it as a single inquiry, so the impact on your score will be minimal.

9. Still Overwhelmed? A Debt Consolidation Loan Could Help

If you’re struggling with credit card debt, consolidating your credit card debt with a loan could be a good option. In a nutshell, you take out a loan to wipe out your credit card balances.

You’ll get the simplicity of a single payment, plus you’ll typically pay less interest since loan interest rates tend to be lower. (If you can’t get a loan that lowers your interest rate, this probably isn’t a good option.)

By using a loan to pay off your credit cards, you’ll also free up credit and lower your credit utilization ratio.

Many debt consolidation loans require a credit score of about 620. If your score falls below this threshold, work on improving your score for a few months before you apply for one.

10. Keep Your Credit Score in Perspective

All the credit-monitoring tools out there make it easy to obsess about your credit score. While it’s important to build good credit, look at the bigger picture. A few final thoughts:

  • Your credit score isn’t a report card on the state of your finances. It simply measures how risky of a borrower you are. Having an emergency fund, saving for retirement and earning a decent living are all important to your finances — but these are all things that don’t affect your credit score.
  • Lenders look at more than your credit score. Having a low debt-to-income ratio, decent down payment and steady paycheck all increase your odds of approval when you’re making a big purchase, even if your credit score is lackluster.
  • Don’t focus on your score if you can’t pay for necessities. If you’re struggling and you have to choose between paying your credit card vs. paying your rent, keeping food on the table or getting medical care, paying your credit card is always the lower priority. Of course, talk to your creditors if you can’t afford to pay them, as they may have options.

Focus on your overall financial picture, and you’ll probably see your credit score improve, too. Remember, though, that while credit scores matter, you matter more.

Now go crush those goals in 2021 and beyond.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

8 Ways the Second Stimulus Check Is Different From the First

Late on Dec. 29, the IRS announced that the second stimulus checks were already on their way. Compared to the first coronavirus check, they’re a lot leaner, but they’re also going out faster. In some cases, you may qualify for one payment and not the other. Here are eight key differences to know.

8 Differences Between the First vs. Second Stimulus Check

First, a few things that haven’t changed: You don’t need to take action to get your check. You don’t have to worry about owing taxes on your stimulus payment. And anyone who’s eligible for either payment who doesn’t (or didn’t) get it will still be able to claim their money by filing a 2020 tax return.

OK, now let’s break down the differences.

1. The payments are smaller.

This one’s glaringly obvious: Instead of the $1,200 payments most adults received mid-2020, the second stimulus check is just $600. Although President Trump has pushed for a $2,000 check and the Democrat-led House of Representatives passed a bill increasing the checks to $2,000, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a vote on the measure. As of Dec. 30, 2020, the only checks that have been approved are for $600, but the IRS says it will top off any payments already made if a higher amount is approved.

2. You get $100 more for dependent kids 16 and younger.

In the first round, the child coronavirus tax credits were $500. This time, parents will receive $600 for dependent children 16 and younger, the same amount adults get. In the first round, a married couple with two kids under age 17 would have received $3,400. Now the same family will get $2,400.

Anyone 17 or older who’s claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return still won’t qualify for a payment this round. That means many college students and disabled people will be left out again.

3. The income phaseouts are lower.

For both the first and second stimulus check, payments phase out at a rate of 5 cents for every $1 you earn above these thresholds:

  • $75,000 if you’re single
  • $112,500 if you’re head of household
  • $150,000 if you’re married and file a joint tax return.

Because the payments are lower this time, the payments will be phased out at lower income levels compared to the first time. For example, the first round didn’t completely phase out for someone single until their income reached $99,000. This time, that same person wouldn’t get a check if they earned more than $87,000.

4. Only your 2019 tax returns are considered.

Payments will be based on your 2019 tax return only for the second stimulus check. For the first check, the IRS used your 2019 return if it was available. But it used 2018 returns for some people who hadn’t yet filed because the tax deadline was extended or their returns hadn’t been processed yet.

If you get Social Security, SSI, SSDI, Railroad Retirement System or VA Benefits, the IRS will get the information it needs to make your payment, just as it did last time. If you used the non-filer tool, the IRS also has the information it needs to get you your check.

One thing that gets tricky, though, is that both checks are an advance on a special 2020 tax credit. You won’t owe taxes on your stimulus checks, and you won’t have to repay them even if you didn’t qualify based on your 2020 income. But if your 2020 return qualifies you for stimulus money because your income fell or you had a child, you can get your stimulus money as a rebate recovery credit when you file your 2020 tax return.

5. People who owe child support will get checks.

People who owe child support will get a $600 stimulus check. The first stimulus check excluded people whose tax refunds are seized through the Treasury Offset program due to unpaid child support.

6. You can get a check if your spouse doesn’t have a Social Security number.

If you’re married and file a joint return with someone who doesn’t have a Social Security number, you’ll qualify for a $600 payment. You’ll also receive a payment for dependent children 16 and younger. Mixed-status families weren’t allowed to claim payments under the CARES Act, but the new relief bill also allows them to retroactively apply for payments from the first round for anyone in the household who has a Social Security number.

7. You could get this one faster.

The IRS started sending out the second stimulus check to people with direct deposit on Dec. 29, just two days after President Trump signed the relief bill into law. Paper checks were set to start going out Wednesday, Dec. 30. By comparison, the first round of payments didn’t start arriving until just over two weeks after the CARES Act became law.

8. The IRS has a tighter deadline.

The initial IRS timeline for the first round of payments stretched all the way into September for the highest-earning paper check recipients, though the overwhelming majority of people got them much sooner. But this time around, the IRS deadline for making payments is Jan. 15, 2021. If you haven’t gotten your payment at that point, you’ll still get one, but you’ll need to file a 2020 tax return and apply for a recovery rebate credit.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Home-Based Claims Rep Jobs with UnitedHealth Group

Work at Home Mom Revolution - Work at Home Jobs for Moms

UnitedHealth Group is hiring home-based claims rep agents in the United States. These work at home positions are full-time (40 hours per week). Home-based claims reps work business hours, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday. From the company: “You’re ready for the next step forward and an opportunity to build on your skills. […]

The post Home-Based Claims Rep Jobs with UnitedHealth Group appeared first on Work at Home Mom Revolution.

Check Your Bank Account. Your $600 Stimulus Check May Be There

The waiting is the hardest part. Fortunately, for the second stimulus check, it will be incredibly short.

The IRS announced Dec. 29 that the first direct deposit payments would be made that night — just two days after President Trump signed legislation approving the checks — and will continue throughout the week. Paper checks will start to be mailed today, Wednesday, Dec. 30.

By comparison, the first round of checks arrived a little over two weeks after Trump signed the CARES Act into law in late March.

The official payment date for the checks is Jan. 4, 2021. You may see the deposit listed as pending until then, according to the IRS news release.

The IRS is under a tighter deadline to disburse the money this time around. While the process for getting the first payments out spanned several months for people getting checks by mail, this time payments must be made by Jan. 15, 2021.

If you don’t receive your check by then, you can still get one if you’re eligible. But you’ll have to file a 2020 tax return and get the money as a refund recovery rebate.

What Do I Have to Do to Get My Payment?

Nothing. The IRS has everything it needs to get your 600 bucks to you if:

  • You filed a 2019 tax return
  • You used the non-filer tool at IRS.gov to get your first check. (The tool is no longer available.)
  • You receive Social Security, SSI, SSDI, Railroad Retirement System or VA benefits.

This is important enough that it bears repeating: You do not have to do anything to claim your stimulus check. If anyone emails, texts or calls you claiming they need your information to get your stimulus check to you, it is a scam.

A good rule of thumb is that if you got the first check, you’re all set to get the second one. If your bank account has changed since the first round, there’s no way to update it. Your bank will reject your deposit and the IRS will mail you your payment. If for some reason you didn’t get the first payment or you don’t get the second one, you’ll still be able to get both by filing a tax return.

As of Dec. 30, the Get My Payment tracker at IRS.gov was offline, but the IRS says it will be available again in a few days.

Are the Checks for $2,000 or $600?

The payments are $600 for adults who can’t be claimed as a dependent and children 16 and younger. They’ll phase out at 5 cents for every $1 of income above $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for heads of household and $150,000 for married couples who file a joint return.

The House of Representatives approved a bill that increased the payments to $2,000, which President Trump was pushing for. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a vote on that bill.

The only payments that have been approved are for $600, not $2,000, so don’t be surprised when your payment arrives. The IRS says if a higher amount is approved, payments that have been made “will be topped up as quickly as possible.”

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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