Tips for Saving Money

We all know we need to save. Yet, few of us do save. Why? Because there are too many competing priorities for money in our lives. But, you can you can save for those larger purchases, for the emergencies that are sure to come, for your children’s college, for a home, and for your retirement. You may not think you have enough money. You may think you are living paycheck to paycheck with nothing left over after meeting your expenses. You may think you have to earn more money in order to have enough money to save.

The truth is saving isn’t a math matter. It’s an emotional one. Once you make saving a priority, then and only then will you save. Until you decide to pay yourself first, you won’t save. By the time you get to the end of the money, there won’t be enough left over for you. Here are some quick tips on how to save money.

Tip #1 – Know where your money is going

Keep track of what you spend for the next month. Write down each purchase, or ask for a receipt. But at the end of the month, your assignment is to account for every penny.

  Tip  #2 – Get control of your debt

Unsecured  credit   card  debt and car loans are two of the biggest drains on personal finance. Adopt the attitude that if you can pay cash for it, you don’t need it. Stop using your  credit   cards  and paying high interest rates on things you probably don’t need anyway. Stop buying new cars on credit that lose their value as soon as you drive them off the lot. Use the snowball method to get out of debt and then stay out!

Tip #3 – Are you a collector?

Many people spend money collecting things. Maybe you collect records, books, antiques, coins, dolls… look at your collections. Do they have any real value (a limited amount with a high demand), or are they one of thousands with no real resale value? Do you have duplicates? Are you buying more than you can enjoy?

Tip #4 – Review your gift giving budget

Do you buy expensive gifts for a huge list of friends and relatives? Can you make something instead that might have even more meaning to the person receiving the gift? Sometimes giving a consumable, homemade gift to someone whose house is cluttered and including a handwritten note will be the best gift they receive.

Tip #5 – Use the “sleep on it” rule

Before you make a major purchase (for most people, that would be anything over $300, but your personal threshold could be lower or higher), sleep on it. Why do you think a salesperson tries so hard to close the deal before you leave the store? They know that if you have time to think about it, you may decide that you really don’t need to make the purchase right now. So, go home and sleep on it. If you are still sure the next morning that buying is the right thing to do, then go ahead and do it (assuming you won’t be violating  Tip  #2 by using a  credit   card  or otherwise going further into debt!).

Tip #6 – Always write a grocery list before you go shopping

Shop with a list, and don’t buy anything that isn’t on the list. A lot of research has gone into the creation of store displays to get shoppers to make those impulse purchases. If you stick to your list, you won’t fall prey to that marketing ploy. Another good technique for grocery shopping is to use the envelope method. When you get paid, write a check out for cash for the amount of your grocery shopping for that pay period and put it in an envelope. When the envelope is empty, you stop buying groceries until the next payday when you can refill the envelope.

Tip #7 – Throw a party

No, I don’t mean an all-out, expensive affair. But, instead of going out to dinner, why not invite some of your friends over instead. You could even ask them to bring their favorite dish and have a potluck meal. You could discuss a good book or watch a $1 Redbox Rental. Entertainment can still be fun without being expensive.

Tip #8 – De-clutter

Go through your closets and dressers and sort through your clothes. If you’re like most people, you have clothing that needs to be mended, clothing that needs to be thrown out and clothing that either no longer fits you or you just don’t like anymore. Set aside the mending and actually mend it instead of replacing it. The clothes you don’t want anymore can be sold in a yard sale, taken to a consignment shop, or even donated to Goodwill for a tax deduction (just ask them for a receipt for your taxes).

Tip #9 – Buy used

Not everything needs to be purchased new. Did your washing machine break down? You can get a used one from your local appliance store for $75. Does your son go through video games in a day? Buy used from Hastings or your local video game store. You can also buy pre-owned movies from your local store or from your nearest Redbox outlet. Never, ever buy a new car. It will lose thousands of dollars of its value within the first couple of years. Let someone else take that hit; buy used.

Tip #10 – Cut back on convenience foods

It’s easy enough to cook in bulk and freeze leftovers to create your own “convenience foods”. You can take these to work with you saving that $6 – $9 fast food lunch bill. Not to mention, the food you prepare at home will probably be much healthier than what you buy from your local fast food restaurant.

These are just a few tips to help you find ways to save money. But remember, unless saving becomes a priority for you, it will never happen. So, start today, even if you save just a little. Make saving a habit, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your savings account will grow.

Are E-Commerce Processors Making Credit Card Payments a Thing of the Past?

Alternative payments, such as e-commerce processors, exist to address needs that weren’t being met by traditional payments, but they won’t be content to simply satisfy those needs. They’ve already done that and now they’re on the road to glory, targeting the very market that was once the exclusive domain of  credit   cards . As e-commerce processors continue to grow, will card payments disappear entirely?

 Credit   card  payments were the original digital money transfers. Before the cards came along, all you had were cash and checks. Naturally,  credit   cards  dominate the online landscape.

Now that the ways to exchange money or make a payment are nearly endless, checks have all but died out, but somehow  credit   cards  live on. Why is that? What is it about the card payments that allow them to maintain such a grasp on the market? And will it last?

 Credit   Cards  vs. Alternative Payments

“Alternative payments” is a hard concept to grasp. It covers such a wide range of different tools, methods and platforms, and there’s no distinct difference that marks one type of payment as traditional and another as alternative. The only truly accurate definition of alternative payments is “any payment method that didn’t exist 25 years ago.”

But that begs the question: what happens when alternative payments become mainstream? What do we call them then? I grant that it’s confusing.

Alternative payments weren’t created in a vacuum. They arose to meet a variety of consumer demands that weren’t being met by  credit   card  payments online. The main driving force in the rise of alternative payments was security concerns. The public grew increasingly aware of the risks involved in using online  credit   card  processors and sought a way to shop online without revealing their card information.

That was the first chip in the veneer of  credit   card  payments, and they have continued to erode slowly but surely ever since.

With the development of a variety of different gateways to accept online payments, the original demand for an alternative to  credit   card  payments was met. Not only were alternative payment platforms more secure than these cards, they were also more affordable. As these e-commerce processors grew more and more widely accepted, they began to introduce new features.

Now, online payment solutions have gotten to the point that they act like a digital wallet, which can be used anywhere without the consumer ever having to hand over their personal and payment information to the merchant.

A New World

There once was a time when people used to barter; they would trade one product for another, or maybe even trade a service for a product, or vice versa. Cash, in one form or another, eventually took over, and dominated the landscape up until about the 1950s, when  credit   cards  were invented. From trading objects to online payment solutions, there have been countless changes that have taken place since the dawn of civilization, and we now find ourselves in a world where cold hard cash is being replaced slowly by other modes of payment.

The invention of online payment solutions is slowly making the world a cashless place. People used to go to the bank to withdraw cash, but now people never have to let cash touch their hands to buy the products they need on a daily basis. And now card payments are disappearing as well, in favor of fully digitalized e-wallets.

How To Read Your Credit Report

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, signed into law on Dec. 4, 2003, gives every American the right to a free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

What the law doesn’t do is give every American the ability to read their credit report. Not one word in the law says the credit bureaus have to write it in plain, easy-to-understand language. Go to and click on consumers then credit and read it for yourself. Hopefully you’ll stay awake .

While all credit reports follow a basic format, some vary so what you are about to read doesn’t apply across the board. If you didn’t get it directly from one of the bureaus mentioned above, your best bet for a translation is the source providing your copy.

Here is the four part skeleton most bureaus use. Part one is your identifying information. This would be information like your name, social security number, previous addresses, current address, date of birth, driver’s license number, telephone number, spouse’s name and your employer and length of employment. As with all sections, pay close attention because chances are pretty darned good, some of it is wrong.

It is wrong because this information comes to the bureau from a myriad of sources and the bureau doesn’t take the time to update or correct it. That leaves you as your own correcting agent.

Part two is your credit history. This is usually the longest part of your report because you probably have had department store accounts, multiple   credit   cards , multiple bank and other financial institution loans, mortgages, car loans, lines of  credit , home equity loans and other transactions involving credit.

Sometimes you will see the bureau calls these accounts trade lines. No big deal because they are still your accounts.

These accounts usually start with when you opened the account then tell the type or kind of credit (installment, car loan, personal loan, etc.) and whether it is in your name or someone else is on the account with you. The total amount of the loan with your high  credit  limit or if it is a  credit   card , your highest balance follows. The next thing it shows is how much you still owe and if the payments are fixed or minimum monthly amounts. Your status, open/inactive/closed/paid, follow your payments then comes the item everybody wants to know, how well you’ve paid on the account.

This is where the bureaus list if you are late, and if late, how late and how often you’ve been late. If you are not late, it will show you pay on time.

Part three is called Public Inquiries or Public Records. This is where tax liens, judgments, foreclosures and bankruptcies are listed. You want this part to be blank and I do mean blank. If you see anything here, attempt to correct immediately if not sooner.

Part four is the Inquiries section. It is divided into two parts. Part one are the inquiries you initiate by filling out a credit application. This section is generally referred to as the hard inquiry section because you are the initiator of the inquiries.

The second part is called the soft inquiry section. What you’ll find here are the names of companies who have sent you offers of credit or current creditors who are monitoring your account.

Sometimes there is a fifth section called Remarks. Read it because you never know who reported what about you.

Each credit report bureau places an explanation of terms usually on the backside of the report pages. In it, they explain what the numbers and letters you see next to your accounts mean. So, if you see something like I9, don’t fret as it should be defined in the explanation of terms.

Of course, I9 could be negative, so you may have to fret. Either way, you are now almost totally armed to deal with that free credit report the law said the bureaus had to give you.

Good luck and may all your credit be A+.

Cashless Marketing Options

Marketing to the Masses In a world full of choices, it is up to the owners of car washes to let the people in their area know why they should choose their location over the others in the area. Most metropolitan areas have multiple car washes in a single town. Most gas stations and C-stores now have their own car wash that can and will cut into the traffic of your wash. But you’re running ads in the paper and have a nice big well lit sign, so where are all the new customers?

The buying trends in our consumer driven economy make it very clear that it is not always as important where customers buy their car wash, it’s how they buy their car wash. Consumers will make a buying decision based on factors of convenience which could be as simple as accepting their particular credit card or being a member of a prepaid car washing club.

Find a Cashless System That Fits Your Business The car wash industry is so full of cashless payment solutions that wash owners can easily get overwhelmed by all of the choices. Luckily the vast majority of the systems can be boiled down into those that primarily focus on credit card acceptance and those that offer loyalty programs and tools to market a cashless program beyond straight credit card acceptance. There is also a third category and that is the basic built-in factory option available through most new equipment. Built-in card programs from the factory are going to be very basic. Just like the factory radio in your car, it will handle the very basics of functionality and may even get you by for awhile. Much like your factory car radio, they can be taken out and replaced with any number of non-proprietary solutions to provide additional features not available from the factory options.

Only Interested in Accepting Credit Cards? If your only goal in purchasing a cashless payment system is to accept credit cards then my only suggestion is to hire yourself a sign consultant, such as Perry Powell, and build the largest, most visible sign allowed by your city featuring the words “We Accept…” followed by the logos of every major credit card you can offer. If a customer does not know you take credit cards they may just keep on driving by. Accepting credit cards is just as important as accepting cash, it’s just smart business sense. The major credit card companies spend billions of dollars to make sure every college student, adult, and child with a bank account has their own credit card.

Tip: Although credit card acceptance may get a new customer in the door there is nothing loyalty building about a Visa. Remember? “Visa, it’s anywhere you want to be”. A customer with a Visa is only as loyal as other businesses in town are to Visa. Credit card acceptance is a wonderful angle for getting new customers on the lot, the trick is giving them a reason to come back.

Looking For a Marketable Cashless Program? Is It For You? The first thing I cannot stress enough is that the more flexibility your cashless system has the more likely it is to get used. Cashless marketing programs are much like an exercise video. You can buy the video. You can watch the video. But unless you actually do the exercises on the video you will not benefit from having purchased it. And this is why the number one reason for the success or failure of a a cashless loyalty system boils down to owner and employee participation. To successfully implement a profitable cashless program it requires every level of the business to embrace and evangelize it’s benefits to their customers.

How Do I Market A Cashless Loyalty Program? There is no magic handbook or miraculous software that can provide all of the answers and this article is by no means, going to provide all of the answers. Some cashless products come with ‘marketing tools’ in the form of thick books that have not been updated in years, leaving you to decipher their use. Other products come with practical advice, marketing literature, and marketing consultations with experts. The best tools in the industry are from wash professionals and wash operators themselves. It used to be that car wash operators would only have the opportunity to learn more about being successful business owners in-person at the car wash conventions. The Internet has been an invaluable tool in learning “what works” and “what doesn’t work”. Websites such as talkcarwash and autocareforum give a voice to car wash operators from around the globe to ask questions and give answers to other car wash operators that might be in the same situation as themselves.

Marketing Option 1: Selling Cards Face to Face The most basic approach in sales is meeting your customers face to face and explaining to them the merits of your loyalty program. Perhaps you give bonus wash dollars when customers pre-pay or recharge their prepaid account. As employees meet and greet customers on the lot it never hurts to carry a few extra prepaid cards to hand out to customers as they are finished washing their vehicles. It gives them incentive to come back a second time and if properly presented they will add additional value back onto their prepaid card. Obviously the drawback of selling cards by hand is that you are limited to how many cards you can physically hand out or sell in person.

Marketing Option 2: Target Local Business with Commercial Accounts The most successful wash owners all attest to the amazing profitability of targeting local businesses with a fleet card program. Commercial fleet business is a profitable and predictable ongoing volume of business you can count on every month. Since several systems on the market can generate itemized invoices at month’s end, many car wash owners can bring in huge accounts including municipal vehicles, city vehicles, and local law enforcement. Car wash operators that were previously selling tokens or token notes found that their commercial business customers washed far more often once they were no longer reliant upon getting more tokens when they ran out and no longer had to distribute tokens and token notes among the various fleet drivers once new coin tokens or token notes were purchased.

Tip: In a recent survey of commercial business customers, the number one concern of managers had nothing to do with the quality of the wash their vehicles were receiving. Their top concern was whether they were being ripped off by their own employees every time they handed out bags of untraceable tokens or stacks of token notes. A proper cashless fleet management program will give the peace of mind that business owners are looking for.

Marketing Option 3: Sell Prepaid Cards in Vending Machines or Specialized Card Dispensers Offering prepaid loyalty cards in standard vending machines allow for 24/7 sales. Several manufacturers offer specialized card dispensing machines that give prepaid customers the ability to purchase a card with either cash or credit card. These machines automatically apply the loyalty bonus for prepayment and will dispense a prepaid card loaded with the appropriate value. The greatest benefit of these machines is that it allows customers to check the value of an existing prepaid card and add additional value if the balance is running low. These machines consequently give consumers the ability to use their large bills that cannot be broken in a bill changer.

Tip: Adding a specialized vending and recharging machine gives the perfect opportunity to completely phase out coin tokens with a far more profitable cashless solution. No more sorting tokens from quarters, electrical blanks from tokens, and your wash tokens from the local laundromat or casinos coin tokens.

Marketing Option 4: Sell Wash Accounts On the Internet In the same consumer economy that lets you buy your groceries on the Internet it should be no surprise that consumers will buy their car washes on the Internet as well. Having a web presence for your car wash gives customers an opportunity to learn more about your wash services. Like many car wash owners that offer cashless payment options, they use their website as another way to generate revenue from online wash sales.

Example: An example of effective cashless marketing on the Internet can be seen by visiting the website of the independently owned car wash Swipe-N-Shine (swipenshine). Swipe-N-Shine is located in Murray Utah and is owned and operated by Brett Pace. Brett uses his website to not only sell prepaid cards but he also gives his loyalty card customers the option of registering their card on his website to protect the cards value should it get lost or stolen. Customers have the option to sign up for a free birthday wash and when customers register their prepaid card online they can also qualify for his Swipe-N-Shine referral program. Customers that refer their friends and family to the loyalty program can net themselves and their friend $5 in free wash value. Lastly, Brett gives all of his fleet customers the ability to manage their own commercial account from his website, much like online banking. Commercial fleet customers pay their invoices online with their company credit card, much in the same way prepaid customers add additional value to their prepaid accounts online.

Tip: Put your website address on everything. Signs, shirts, prepaid cards, even company vehicles! Again, if customers don’t know it’s available, they won’t use it. In the case of a website, they won’t visit it.

Marketing Option 5: Sell Prepaid Washes via Charity Fund raiser School sports teams, youth groups, and organizations can only sell so many frozen pizzas, holiday wreaths, and cookies to raise money. Deal directly with the organization and sell them discount prepaid cards to cover your costs and let them make a few bucks for bringing scores of new customers to your location. Either way, the goal of a charity car wash or Fund raiser is not to make a pile of cash on the initial investment. Instead, wash owners should keep two primary goals in sight at all times. 1) Become more visible in the community. 2) Focus on the new customers that the Fund raiser sales will bring in. And when in doubt realize you can write off the entire thing on your taxes. It is a proven statistical fact – the more loyalty cards you have in circulation, the more repeat business you will have on a regular basis. Wash owners that get loyalty cards into the hands of everybody they do business with has no idea what a ‘slow month’ at the wash is like.

Marketing Option (Necessity) 6: Properly Advertise Your Program! Just like with credit cards, if customers do not know you offer a loyalty card program they will not participate. Every bay should have a sign, the menu board should have a sign, and the vending area should have multiple signs. The most effective place to put a sign is anywhere customers will look while they are waiting for a customer to finish washing in front of them.

What can I do that I’m not doing now?

  • Fund raisers (Charity Donation)
  • Running a web-based marketing campaign (using a website as an ‘anchor’ for marketing efforts)
  • A ‘Discount Wash’ program for loyalty card/key/code users
  • Successfully marketing to fleets with an automated fleet management program.
  • Developing business relationships with local mechanics shops, automotive dealerships, super markets, and C-Stores to offer promotional ‘first wash free’ deals, or discount wash packages / fleet accounts.

Cashless System Buyers Guide Don’t get burned by being unprepared when looking at card/key/code systems! Know your facts and have your questions ready! The last thing you want to happen is spend a lot of money on a solution that will not meet your needs beyond accepting just credit cards.

  • How many cards/codes/keys can I have in the system at once?
  • How do I collect the data? Do I need to physically go to the wash?
  • How often do I need to go and collect the data before the memory fills up and data loss occurs?
  • How does the information get into my accounting software? How do I do billing?
  • How does the system protect against the loss of transaction data? Is there a data backup system?
  • Does the system allow customers to use Credit Cards? If so, is it batch processing or at time of purchase processing?
  • Are the cards/keys/codes rechargeable? How do they get recharged?
  • How do customers purchase the cards/keys/codes? Is there a way to automate dispensing?
  • Does the system require an attendant?
  • How much do the cards/keys/codes cost a each?
  • How does the system handle upgrades and feature adds? Do I need to pay for these upgrades?
  • Does the hardware work with my auto cashier or self-serve bay timers?
  • How durable are the cards/keys/codes?
  • Is customization available? If so, what can I customize?
  • Can lost or stolen cards/keys/codes be removed from the system and replaced with a new card/key/code?
  • How flexible is the system in terms of offering discounts or running promotions?
  • Does the system offer both pre-paid and credit accounts for fleets?
  • How much development has been made to enhance the system since it launched? Are there future plans to continue innovation on the product?
  • Does the system offer online promotional tools? Can they be integrated into my existing website?

Debt consolidation – Options for Reducing Credit Card Costs

Americans are using  credit   cards  more than at any time in history, and  credit   card  companies are reaping record profits. One of the reasons that the  credit   card  industry is so profitable is that so many of us use our  credit   cards  unwisely.

If you have good  credit , you can get a  credit   card  with a reasonable interest rate; say 10% or so. You can keep that rate by paying your bill on time. On the other hand, if you pay your bills late or fail to pay in full, then you will have to pay late fees and interest. Late fees often range between $15 and $29; some card issuers may charge even more. Adding to the pain of paying late fees, however, is the likely change in interest rates on your card if you pay late. A late payment may trigger a substantial increase in the interest rate on your card, and that “reasonable” interest rate of 10% may suddenly rise to 20% or even 25%!

It’s hard to pay off your  credit   card  balance when you have late fees and 25% interest, so this is something you definitely want to avoid. If you usually pay on time, and you pay late once and are charged a late fee, ask your credit company if they will waive the fee. They will often do it – once. Some will not do it at all, but it is always worth taking the time to ask. If they are unwilling to help you, then you may be better off shopping around for a better  credit   card  deal elsewhere.

You can often save money by transferring your balance to a lower interest  credit   card , if you have one. Competition has been fierce during the last few years among  credit   card  companies, and it is fairly common to receive “promotional” rates of less than 5% if you transfer your balance to another card. Be sure to read the fine print, however. Those low rates usually apply only to transferred balances, and not to new charges placed on the card. There is usually a time limit associated with the promotional rate, and higher rates may apply at the end of the time limit, perhaps even retroactively!

In summary, if you want to minimize your  credit   card  costs, try the following:

  • Shop around for a  credit   card  with a low interest rate.
  • Pay your bills on time. A good way to do this is to pay online. That way, you won’t have to worry about your check being delayed in the mail.
  • Transfer balances from high interest rate cards to cards with lower rates.
  • Use your cards wisely. If you can pay cash, do it.
  • A few simple steps can save you a fortune in interest charges and late fees.

    Managing Your Credit

    Are you also living on credit like millions of Americans? Yes, Believe it or not almost everyone is living on a credit. And why should one not? With the inflation rates growing with every passing year, it makes sense to live on credit rather than first accumulating money and then spending it. Apart from this the current scenario of an open market in terms of credit providing organizations has also opened up more and more options.

    With so much depending upon your credit, it is important for you to make sure that you manage your credit very well. Else you can invite an enormous amount of interest that the credit offering banks can levy on you.

    Credit cards now literally have taken over hard cash and the era of plastic money has already begun. The credit card companies provide their consumers some really attractive offers. These offers make sure that you apply for one or other of these cards.

    But after you have the credit card, it is very important to make sure that you pay your bills in full and on time to avoid any unwanted interest and finance charges. So it is always advisable that you manage your credit in the best possible way.

    The most important thing to do is to avoid any sort of interest or penalty due to late deposits. This is something which can be achieved by proper planning. And this is quite important to make your Credit History look good.

    Secondly, as you keep paying your bills on time your credit history becomes better and better and your credit score improves. This means you become the bank’s preferred customer and you can avail much more credit if required.

    Also the credit reporting agencies keep a record of credit history in a credit report and it becomes much better over time. If the bank believes that you are someone who can be trusted to return the money on time, you will benefit greatly. If you have a good credit report it means that you have a better chance of getting a loan if required and also in some cases you attract lower interest rates if you are a preferred customer.

    The best and the only solution towards better managed credit is to develop a budget and follow it. This can be quite difficult to begin with but it is a very simple and powerful self-help method of improving your credit scores.

    Accepting Credit Cards: Myths and Misconceptions

    One of the most popular misconceptions about the accepting credit cards is that credit and debit cards offer the same processing fees. Credit cards charge a higher processing fee than debit cards. Merchants should be aware of the rate that they will be charged for credit cards as well as debit cards. These fees are required to be disclosed to a new merchant when they are entering into an agreement with a processing company.

    A second common misconception about card acceptance is that only a bank can be a merchant processor. Many businesses will use their brick and mortar bank for accepting card payments. While this can be a convenient arrangement, it typically costs more money than a third party processor. Banks charge a higher processing fee than third party processing companies. Also, card deposits may only clear one business day faster than a third party processing company would be able to deposit them.

    A third common myth about accepting card payments is that the minimum amount to charge while avoiding a fee is $25 a month. However, if the company requires a minimum of $25 charged a month that actually means that $25 in fees must be paid in a month. One example would be a business who ends up paying $15 in credit card fees for a given month. They would need to pay $10 to cover the difference between the fees that they paid and the minimum amount of fees.

    A fourth common myth about credit card acceptance is that charge backs are common. A charge back is not common if a retailer takes steps to avoid fraudulent or suspicious transactions. Businesses should always verified that a card is signed and ask for identification when a customer is using their cards. Also, businesses should ensure that the card has all of the necessary information. Always require that the card be present in order to complete the transaction. Never take a credit card number over the phone unless it is simply to secure an item until the customer picks it up.

    A fifth common misconception about accepting credit cards is that the merchant processing company with the lowest rate is the best choice. Businesses need to understand what services they will use the most. A business that has a large amount of cards should think about utilizing a merchant processor that has a low discount rate. However, a business with a large debit card customer base should focus on a lower rate on debit card acceptance.

    Businesses should carefully review their options to find the merchant account processor that is right for their needs. Credit card interchange fees, minimum fees, debit card swipe fees and other charges are variable from processor to processor. Any business who is looking for a merchant processor should verify their fees, review the companies charge back policy, ensure that they are receiving the lowest fees for the card type the majority of their customers present as well as work with a merchant processor who deposits funds quickly. Businesses who are able to find a credit card processing company that meets these steps will be able to function efficiently.

    5 Tips to Choosing Your Merchant Account Service Provider

    Merchant account services are the services that allow you to accept credit cards as payments, both online and off, and help you handle the transaction processing. There are two types of merchant accounts a business owner can apply for. One is called an “Over the Counter” (OTC) merchant account, and the other a “Money-Order/ Telephone-Order” (MOTO) merchant account. Merchant Account processing is one of the most important aspects of your business. Accepting cards can increase sales by up to 60%. Making sure your business is processing with the right company is very important. There are several factors to consider when selecting a processing provider. Here are five things to take into consideration when selecting your processing company.

    1. Is the company a Registered ISO of Visa and MasterCard? Are they directly licensed by Visa and MasterCard to process credit cards?

    2. What does the processing focus on? Do they focus on small business, corporations or something else?

    3. What are the merchant processing company’s customer service hours? A good company will offer support 24/7.

    4. Merchant account processing is a service for your business. The credit card companies (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover) charge every business that accepts their card a percentage of the transaction (a transaction fee).

    5. What should you be paying to accept credit cards? Processing rates (frequently referred to as the discount rate) depends on the type of business and the way you run your transactions. It also depends on the type of credit card you are processing. (I.e. debit card, credit card, gift card or check).

    In keeping with costs, you need to look at other fees that may be required. Most credit card processing services charge several types of monthly fees When it comes to accepting credit and debit cards your main objective should be to get the best available rate and fees for your business type, while balancing that with service. A merchant account does not have to cost a lot of money. If you feel it is costing you way too much, it’s time to review your monthly processing statement and look into a new provider. There are many processing companies looking for your business, When searching for a new provider, look at one that is willing to give you a no obligation rate and cost comparison. Most will simply look at your current processing statement and be able to give you a quote within a day or two.

    Here Is How To Raise Your Credit Credit Score From 480 To 700

    You can raise your credit score from 480 to 700 by following a few steps listed below.

    Your credit score is your financial gateway to getting the things you want in life. Your credit score is used for the following; when you buy a car, lease a car, rent an apartment, buy a home, college loans, buy the newest computers, electronics and it’s also used by insurance companies when you need insurance.

    Credit scores range from 300 to 850 and any score below 500 is considered a higher risk to lenders. Trying to maintain a score above 700 will improve your chances of getting a loan for larger purchases such as a car or a house. With a higher score you can get better interest rates and terms on your loans.

    Obtain a 3 to 1 Credit Report

    Go to to get a free copy of your credit report. You want the 3 to 1 so that you can see the complete report from all 3 credit report agencies. Check your report for any inaccuracies such as someone else using your credit or anything that shouldn’t be there. This could be identity theft and should be reported immediately.

    Make sure that each of your creditors have accurately reported your information. If you find there are mistakes, draft a letter and mail it to the credit report agency along with any proof to back up your dispute. You want to get this inaccurate information off your credit report as soon as possible.

    Consolidate Credit Cards

    Transfer balances on higher interest rate cards to ones that have a lower interest rate. This will lower your credit score by getting rid of too much debt.

    Inspect Your Finances

    Pull all your finances together. Look for somewhere you can squeeze say $100.00 additional each month. Take this money and apply it to the credit card with the highest interest rate each month until you get it paid off. Then, take that money and pay off the next highest interest rate credit card, and so on.

    Avoid the Top End Limit of Credit Cards

    Being maxed out on a credit card can lower your credit rating. A good benchmark is only holding 30% of the max amount available on the card. If you have a credit card with a balance of $1000.00, keep the amount on that card around $350.00 to improve your credit score.

    Pay Your Bills on Time

    Be sure that you consistently pay all your bills on time. Paying your bills on time is the one of the main elements that the credit bureaus use in calculating your credit score. (35% of your score is based on payment history)

    Pay more than the minimum due on each credit card, only paying the minimum due is a sign you could fall behind on your payments and you may be a high risk.

    Close Un-Used Credit Cards

    Simply destroying your cards doesn’t work. You need to call the credit card company and request that they close your account so that it no longer shows on your credit report. This will help increase your credit score.

    Refrain from Requesting More Credit

    Each inquiry is reported to the credit agencies and multiple inquiries can negatively impact your rating. If there are no inquiries for a 2 year period, lenders are more willing to extend credit, confident that you will not overextend yourself and default on your payments.

    Using these helpful tips can help you to increase your credit over time.

    Tips for Writing a Letter to a Credit Bureau

    All too often it happens to the best of us: You miss a  credit   card  payment. You forget to drop your car loan payment in the mailbox as you hurry off to work. You order up a copy of your credit report, and you are angry to find negative items listed in it that are not correct. You get a threatening letter from a bill collector and you discover that a “zombie debt” you thought had long ago vanished has arisen from the dead.

    You’ve tried your best to keep your credit crystal clean, but now you’ve got your work cut out for you.

    Now, you’re going to have to write a letter to fix your credit.

    It’s not that it’s hard to do. Writing a credit dispute letter is no different that any other sort of letter, even one that you would write to a business colleague. But there are certain steps to keep in mind. We’ll provide you with a list of seven  tips  to be aware of when drafting your  credit  dispute letter to help save you time, and we’ll throw in a free sample credit repair letter for good measure to provide a template for contacting credit bureaus.

    Before we start, thought, it’s important to note two things:

    (1) Credit Reporting Agencies (CRA’s) would prefer that you contact them through their website, and

    (2) Letters that appear to be “frivolous” might not get you the results you are aiming at.

    We will discuss both, then move on to a list of free  tips  you can use to craft effective  credit  letters.

    1. CRA websites — no personal touch, no way to document that you mailed the letter via USPS. You get instant access, but there’s no paper trail.

    2. Frivolous letters — Departments which cull through letters of dispute are keen to label letters as not worthy of attention. They are within the legal rights set forth in current credit law to deem your letter frivolous for a variety of reasons.

    To avoid these two obstacles, we’ll offer up our free list of  credit  letter writing  tips  to help you document your dispute, and get valid attention.

     Tips  to Writing Better  Credit  Letters

    1. Order up and review your credit reports. is your free source to review your credit reports each year. You can also call them at toll-free 1-877-322-8228. Study your credit reports compiled by Transunion, Experian and Equifax. Be alert for glaring errors of fact, mistakes in names, outdated information. Keep a legal pad near at hand to jot down problem areas so you won’t forget them.

    2. Know the addresses of the credit bureaus.

    Writing a credit dispute letter is useless unless you know where to send it! Here are the addresses for the three major credit bureaus:


    P.O. Box 6790

    Fullerton, CA 92834


    P.O. Box 9530

    Allen, TX 70513


    P.O. Box 740241

    Atlanta, GA 30374

    3. Have your records handy.

    Keep financial records close by as you write. You’ll need account numbers, dates, merchant names, etc. Jot down reminders on your legal pad.

    4. Type or neatly hand print your letter.

    Write as if you are writing a friend, but don’t be casual. Watch your language — no threats or swearing! Typing or block printing also makes your letter more legible. Remember: if they can’t read it, they can’t fix your credit!

    5. Understand how mistake removal process works.

    Learn how errors creep into credit reports, and know your rights. Tackle only one problem at a time. Identify the most egregious error, and dispute that. Get full details here on how to improve your credit.

    6. Be on watch for identity theft.

    Sometimes reviewing your  credit  report or  credit   card  statements, you will find details that just don’t mesh that may not impact your  credit  score, but you might have stumbled onto the attempt of somebody trying to steal your identity by requesting an address change from your home to an unknown post office box. Best way to fight identity theft when you find it is to

    7. Seek out legal help when all else fails.

    If your problems seem hopeless, don’t despair. You may need to turn to the National Association of Consumer Advocates to locate legal representation to deal with credit bureaus if you truly have cause to feel you’ve been unfairly treated. Oftentimes, though, you can get assistance directly from non-profit credit counselors. Check your telephone book yellow pages in your hometown for the local phone number to the nearest office.

    The following sample credit repair letter template is a good start. Please avoid copying this letter format word for word; CRA’s are expert on detecting sample credit templates. Instead, feel free to use this sample letter as a guide to sculpting your own documents. Make them business like and professional, but make them your own.

    Sample Credit Repair Letter

    January 1, 2011

    Credit Bureau Name


    City, State, Zip

    Dear Sirs,

    I received a copy of my credit report, and after reviewing it for errors carefully, I have found many incorrect and outdated entries I wish to dispute, and I request that they get removed immediately.

    My account at The BigStuff Store, account #98-87-1234, was paid in full according to the terms of my original credit agreement with this store. This was not a charge off. Please remove this charge off as soon as possible.

    I was never late paying Acme Supply, account #2468. My credit report shows me paying 90 days late on both July 2007 and August 2007. These entries are incorrect and they need to be removed.

    There are two entries showing the same amount owed to the Computer Supply House, account #112233, just different addresses. The entry that has my old address should be deleted from my credit report immediately.

    My name is Robbie Smith. My mailing address is 123 Fine Street, Mytown, CA 54321. My Social Security Number is 555-99-2007. My previous address was 11 West Elm Street, Smalltown, NY 11223. My birthdate is Dec. 25, 1957.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Joe Consumer


    City, State, Zip Code

    Last 4 of SSN: xxx-xx-1234

    Armed now with this example letter guide, plus the seven  tips  to create an effective  credit  dispute with your credit bureau, type or hand print your letter, and be sure to make and keep a copy of it for your records. sadly, not every dispute letter will get the action you want immediately, and it’s good to keep copies so you can refer to them or include them in future correspondence.

    Keeping a good credit score will help you get the best deals on loans and home mortgages in the future. But a good credit score depends mainly on paying your bills on time, while keeping an eye out for detecting errors and outdated negative items in your credit report. And now, having these  tips  on how you can write a letter to a  credit  bureau, you have an example of at least one way to fix your bad credit rating and restore good credit on your own.