If you can handle a credit card like an adult, you might as well maximize the benefits! These best credit cards offer bonuses and other perks.

Updated for October 2017! Handling your finances like an adult includes knowing how to deal with credit cards. We all make mistakes sometimes. For me, it was taking a cash advance from a credit card when I hit my personal rock bottom. I felt like I didn’t have any other choice.

But years later, I’ve turned the tables on the credit card industry and now use credit cards to earn cash back and collect points for free travel, which I do often.

Here are my picks for the best credit cards across the different types of credit card offers that are available today. Note: all credit card deals are only worthwhile if you pay your balance off in full each month, like a proper adult. If you have to pay interest or a late payment fee, forget about maximizing credit card offers. Focus on getting your finances in shape first.

Best credit card bonus (for the not-so-typical adult).

Chase Sapphire Reserve 50,000 Bonus Points. Unfortunately, Chase has ended its 100,000 bonus points offer that was available when applying from within a Chase branch. What Chase offers now is the reduced bonus point offer of 50,000 points, for which you can still apply online. That’s still pretty substantial. There’s a $450 annual fee for this card, not waived the first year, but you will receive a reimbursement of up to $300 for certain travel expenses like checked-bag fees.

The rest of the benefits may be worth the $150 difference between the reimbursement maximum and the fee. You’ll need to spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months to receive the bonus. Get the 50,000 bonus points and you’re straight fire.

Best cash back credit card offer (for adults who like money).

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express. The keys to a good cash back card are avoiding the annual fee, eliminating any hassle to retrieving the cash you earn, and finding a cash-back rate that’s above the average offer. 1% cash back is easy to find, but Blue Cash Everyday beats that with 3% cash back on groceries (limited), 2% at gas stations and certain department stores, and 1% on everything else.

There is currently a bonus offer, too. Apply now to earn $200 in cash back after spending $1,000 within the first three months.

Best travel rewards credit card offer (for adults who have places to be).

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card. If you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card, you should expect to find features that make travel easy. The biggest benefit, especially for the world traveler, is having no foreign transaction fee. Bank of America’s offer makes that happen, and does not charge an annual fee, either.

You earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend, unlimited, and those points are redeemed for a statement credit that covers flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees. There’s no need to convert points to miles or points with a specific airline or hotel chain. Because you use the card normally to pay for your travel expenses, there are no black-out dates.

Right now, this card is offering 20,000 bonus points which can be used to book airfare or hotel stays without restrictions.

Best balance transfer credit card (for adults who need to simplify).

Bank AmeriCard. If there’s one thing you want from a credit card you wish to use to transfer a balance, it’s the lack of a fee. If there’s another thing you want, it’s a low interest rate so you can pay off that balance transfer without any extra costs. BankAmericard has the perfect offer. For the first 60 days, you can transfer balances from your other cards for free, and you’ll have 15 months to pay off that balance without paying a cent in interest (0% APR) as long as you pay at least the minimum due each month.

This is the perfect opportunity to consolidate your balances across several cards and create one manageable, monthly payment. But pay the balance in full within the 15-month period! As a bonus, your purchases during the first 60 days will also be treated to the same 0% APR for the first 15 months.

Best credit card offer for students (for adults who are trying to adult).

Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students. I got my first credit card in college. I signed up and got a free tee-shirt. You get more when you are approved for Citi’s card for college students, probably the credit card offer with the most chill. There’s 2,500 bonus points available for those who sign up, and you have to spend only $500 in the first three months to qualify.

The purpose of a student card is to help you build credit, so don’t expect too many frills besides the basic rewards and introductory 0% APR for 7 months.

Best small business credit card (for adults who think they’re important).

Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express. This is the standard, and if you’re building your business beyond yourself, this is a great choice. Watch out for the $175 annual fee (waived for the first year) with the AmEx Business Gold Rewards Card. But, there’s currently a 50,000 bonus points offer, requiring only $5,000 in purchases over the first three months.

This is a charge card, not a credit card, so you pay your bill in full every month.

Best credit card for building credit (for adults who are just starting to adult).

Discover it Secured Credit Card. Building credit can be difficult if you didn’t have certain advantages growing up, like parents who had their own solid credit and a desire to ensure you were starting your adult life with good credit. Without those benefits, creating a solid financial future for yourself and your family will have more obstacles.

Secured credit cards help establish credit, which allows you to qualify for better mortgage rates (or a mortgage at all) when the time comes, better interest rates for other loans, better prices on insurance, and even better apartments. While you’ll be approved for the Discover it Secured Credit Card without a credit history, this is more than just a basic card. You earn cash back on every purchase (limited) and receive your FICO credit score for free.

What’s in your wallet?

Tell us what kind of card (or cards) you have. And what’s the best feature or you? Cash back, travel rewards, or something else?

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Amassing debt is easy. It’s a lot harder to answer the “how” and “why”. These answers can help you avoid mistakes and they can help you remedy them.

When the topic of credit card debt came up on the Adulting editorial calendar, it only made sense to assign it to one-half of the Debt Free Guys.

In case you’re not familiar, my husband and I acquired $51,000 in credit card debt despite having years of experience in financial services. The reason we amassed that impressive total was that we were living and spending unconsciously and trying to make up for years of insecurity and self-doubt.

Our story is just one example of how people find themselves in more debt than they can handle. There are numerous reasons why people get into debt.  Below is a list of what to look out for so you can avoid getting into debt yourself. And if any of these describes your story, know that there is a way out.

Don’t know their financial goals.

It’s my belief (and my husband’s) that more people are in debt than there needs to be because they aren’t clear on what their financial goals are.

It’s like knowing your destination when you’re in the car. The very first and most important thing you need to know is where you want to go. You can have the nicest car, years of experience driving, and it may be a beautiful, bright, and sunny day. But if you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll never get there.

This issue was my challenge. I didn’t know what my financial goals were and so I spent my money on any and everything. I sought short-term, easy satisfaction rather than long-term, secure satisfaction.

Don’t know their life goals.

The sister reason why people get into too much debt is that they aren’t aware of their life goals. Financial goals and life goals are not synonymous.

For example, our stepson just graduated high school. He recently asked for help to create a plan to ensure he’ll be financially secure, not necessarily wealthy, but stable. Financial security is his financial goal. After doing some exercises with him, we’ve since attached a dollar sign to what financially secure means to him and how to get there.

His life goal is to be an artist. He’s currently interested in videography and photography and is going to college for photography. He knows there’s a chance he won’t make a fortune in photography, but in that instance, his financial goals will support his life goals.

Without knowing what you actually want and developing a strategy to get it, you’ll go in any direction the wind takes you. Have you met people like that? Every time you meet them, they have a new goal, they’re moving elsewhere, they’re focused on something new.

Try to keep up with the Joneses.

It is challenging to live in such a consumption society. Everywhere you turn, someone has something newer and nicer than you. Whether it’s your neighbor or the guy on television who you want to be like or be with, it’s easy to get sucked into competitive consumption.

My sister and brother-in-law experienced this in their neighborhood. Theirs is an interesting case study. They lived in a quiet area full of homeowners about their age and children all about their children’s ages. They were all middle-income earners, all within the same income bracket.

Sure enough, when a neighbor did an upgrade to their home, suddenly several other neighbors did upgrades. When someone bought a new car, suddenly there were new cars all over the neighborhood. It all ended finally when one couple said they had to move away because the competition was hurting them financially.

Trying to keep up with The Joneses is like trying to live someone else’s dream. In either case, you’ll never achieve true happiness if you’re living someone else’s life.

They don’t know how to manage money.

Most of us never learn how to handle money. It’s a major disservice of our school system. We motivate and encourage our students, regardless of student loan debt, to get the best and highest job possible, and yet they don’t know how to manage their money.

Being financially secure is not contingent on how much money you earn, but how you handle the money you do earn. With the accessibility of the internet, there is a host of financial information at anyone’s fingertips.

They live and spend unconsciously.

This issue is synonymous with sticking your proverbial head in the sand. Often people live and spend unconsciously because taking the time to learn about their financial situation would mean they’d have to live and spend better. Whether they earn too little income to support their lifestyle or are trapped in an increasing cycle of amassing debt, they continue not to pay attention because it’s easier than addressing the truth.

Unfortunately for many, they learn Stein’s Law the hard way. That law says that if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. Stein’s Law is why most of the emails my husband and I receive are from people who are about to file bankruptcy or have reached retirement age and can’t retire.

They just divorced.

Divorce can be paralyzing to one’s life and finances. No part of divorce is fun, and it can leave both parties bruised emotionally and financially.

Not only is divorce itself expensive due to legal and court fees, but the division of assets rarely seems fair to both sides. The compound effect is that contractual obligations, such as requirements to repay debts, don’t disappear when you divorce.

Over 75% of Americans are in debt. It’s logical to conclude that 75% of couples in America who get divorced also have debt. Those debts must still be repaid despite the status of your marriage.

They have unexpected or large medical bills.

Healthcare in the United States is not getting cheaper, and a health scare or issue can easily wipe out one’s life savings. Even with an increased usage of HSA accounts and access to retirement funds to cover medical expenses, the wrong ailment can ruin one’s financial life.

For this reason alone, more Americans need to have an emergency savings account. But, with the estimation that 47% of Americans would go into debt if they had a $500 emergency, we have a long way to go.

They have an addiction.

People don’t make logical decisions when they have an addiction. You might automatically assume that this point is about gambling. To be sure, gambling does ruin a lot of people’s financial lives. They lose life savings and acquire numerous, even sketchy forms of debt.

This point also applies to people with drug and alcohol addiction who may make poor financial decisions that can cause them to acquire debt. It’s easy to get wrapped up in letting debt subsidize your addiction.

They don’t understand how credit cards work.

In part, because many people don’t understand money, most people don’t know how debt works. We receive too many emails from people saying that they weren’t aware that their interest rate could increase. They assume that the only reason their credit limit increased was that they’re doing well financially. They assume that the only reason they were offered a credit card was due to their creditworthiness – because they’re doing well with their existing credit cards.

That’s simply not true.

Just as with purchasing investments, it’s important for people to understand the nuts and bolts of how credit works. This is where reading the fine print helps and reading personal finance blogs that you can trust helps even more.

They’re unemployed or underemployed.

Even though the economy has been recovering since 2008, and wages are increasing, too many people are unemployed or underemployed. The economy is changing, and more jobs are being automated.

It’s incumbent upon American workers to increase their skill-sets and diversify income streams. This is one of the reasons why I recommend to everyone –everyone – to start a blog. Regardless of your career or skill set and regardless of what direction you want to take your career, a blog is a critical component of future career and financial success. Some people, in fact, think having a blog is more important than having a resume.

These are the top 10 reasons why many people find themselves in more debt than they can manage. Once you know what to look out for, it’s easier to avoid the mistakes. If you see yourself in one or more of the reasons above, now that you know your problem, you’ll more quickly remedy it.

Have you experienced one or more of the reasons above? Were you able to climb out of debt? We’d love to hear about it in the #Adulting Facebook community.

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Travel doesn’t cost as much as you think. Especially if you use credit card rewards programs to reduce the cost.

When my husband and I got married, we didn’t exactly have a lot of money to throw around.

We weren’t poor by any means, but our idea of a honeymoon was leaning more towards a relaxing weekend at the family cabin than a transatlantic tour of Europe and the UK.

Thankfully, my then-fiance and I had been racking up points on a credit card with a travel rewards program.

Before I even started to come up with honeymoon ideas, we’d earned enough mileage to fly to London and Croatia for free.

Instead of heating up s’mores in the microwave and burning through a pile of DVDs, we were exploring ancient palaces and stuffing ourselves with Croatian seafood. It was perfect.

Travel rewards are a slam dunk, as long as you’re responsible enough to reap the benefits. If you’re looking to adventure on the cheap, here’s how to find the best credit card for you and use credit cards to travel.

Examine your credit.

If you want to start earning airline or hotel points, you have to see if your credit is good enough to qualify for the best credit card rewards programs.

The most lucrative cards often require credit scores of 750 or higher, although some will approve people with scores between 620 and 749.

You can get an idea of your credit score for free through sites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.

Don’t like what you see? Look at your credit report to see what’s dragging you down. It might be a high debt-to-income ratio, frequent late payments, or large credit utilization. Work on improving your score before you apply.

If you already have a credit card, pay off the balance each month in full and on time. Doing so regularly for a few months will boost your credit score.

Choose the right card for you.

Almost every airline and hotel company has their own credit card, so it’s easy to find one that fits your needs.

Before you sign up for any cards, research which one makes the most sense for you. If your local airport is mainly a hub for Southwest, it doesn’t make sense to sign up for the United Airlines card.

Many consumers apply for cards based on their initial sign-up bonus. Often signing bonuses are worth at least one round-trip domestic flight.

These bonuses usually require users to spend a certain amount within three months to qualify. Some of these cards only ask that you spend $1,000 in three months, but others demand you spend closer to $3,000 or $4,000 in three months to receive the bonus.

A family of four could probably spend that amount easily, but it’s much harder for a single person. It’s a waste to sign up for a card when you won’t be able to earn the bonus.

Also, it’s not worthwhile to carry a balance on a card just to get the extra points. Travel cards often have higher interest rates, and it’s never worth the free trip if you wind up in credit card debt.

Do the research.

Credit card travel expert Brad Barrett of Richmond Savers said the best airline deals come with traditional frequent flyer miles, but they also sell out the fastest. The key to maximizing any credit card reward is to be adaptable in your plans.

“If they can’t be flexible with their dates, and that often means even plus or minus a few days, then it will be very difficult to use traditional frequent flyer miles,” he said.

Every card has its pros and cons, but some are better than others. One of the perennial favorites is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offers 50,000 bonus points that can be redeemed through almost any airline. Another popular option is the Southwest Rapid Rewards card, which has a

One of the perennial favorites is the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which offers 50,000 bonus points that can be redeemed through almost any airline. Another popular option is the Southwest Rapid Rewards card, which has a 40,000-mile bonus. Flights through Southwest can cost as little as 2,000 points, giving you great bang for your buck.

Barrett’s other favorite picks include the Capital One Venture and Barclaycard Arrival Plus, “which allow you to buy the travel with your credit card like normal and then log in after the fact to redeem your ‘miles’ to wipe the expense off your credit card statement.”

For hotels, Barrett loves the Starwood and Hyatt cards, “since they allow you to use your points to book any ‘Standard’ room they have available.”

“Most hotels aren’t at full occupancy, so you can almost always use your points, even on last-minute stays,” he said.

Read the fine print.

You have to pay taxes and fees when you travel, even if you book your flight for free. Taxes for domestic flights are usually less than $20. However, those taxes and fees can cost more than $100 for an international flight. Don’t forget to include this cost when budgeting for your trip.

Used to traveling at the last minute? Reward flights have to be booked months in advance or you’ll face staggering prices (like 40,000 points for a flight that usually costs 20,000).

Stay on top of your credit rewards.

When you use credit cards to travel, you can build up points for your next trip. Many cards give you double points on your travel, helping you earn rewards faster.

Pay attention to how you are earning points. Use your points to book free airfare, free hotel rooms, and get discounts on rental cars.

You might be surprised at how cheap travel becomes when you use your rewards credit cards.

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Getting out of the paycheck-to-paycheck mode is about more than just spending less. Erin Lowry from Broke Millennial explains how to stop scraping by.

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Show Notes

Are you tired of scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck? Erin Lowry from Broker Millennial joins us to share strategies on how you can get out of your financial rut.

Erin Lowry is a millennial personal finance expert and the founder of BrokeMillennial.com. She’s also the author of the forthcoming book BROKE MILLENNIAL: How to Stop Scraping by and Get Your Financial Life Together. Lowry has contributed to Forbes, Business Insider, New York Magazine’s The Cut and U.S. News & World Report. Some of her insights have been featured by outlets including: CBSSunday Morning, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Marketplace Money. Lowry lives in New York City with her spunky rescue dog Mosby.

Watch the live video above or listen to just the podcast audio by using the player below.

Hosted byMiranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteven Flato
Music bybensound.com
Erin Lowry

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Broke AF? Worried about your debt? You might think you can’t invest, but maybe you can. Here’s how to decide what step to take next on the road to financial freedom.

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One of the best ways to build wealth for retirement is to invest.

Putting money in a retirement account now is a good way to get a good start on building a nest egg that leads to financial independence later.

But what if you have debt?

Can you invest when you have debt and feel broke AF? Does it make sense to pay off your debt before you begin investing?

This week, we talk about the considerations that come when trying to decide whether or not to start investing when you still have debt.

Concepts

  • The importance of investing.
  • Ways debt can slow you down.
  • Are you really ready to invest?
  • Can you balance paying down debt with investing?
  • Have you taken care of other areas of your finances, like an emergency fund?
  • Tips for making investing more effective.
  • How to decide if it makes sense to invest instead of pay down debt early.
  • Different types of debt and which you should tackle first.
  • The importance of being able to sleep at night.

Don’t forget to listen to our “Do Nows” this week. We’ll take a look at how to create a debt payoff plan, open an investment account, and assess how much you need to start saving today to hit your retirement goals.

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Join the Friends of Adulting! Please leave an honest review on iTunes. We would really appreciate the feedback!

Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com

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Your first credit card feels amazing. It’s like getting extra money. Only problem? It’s not. It’s a loan. You need to be on top of things if you use credit cards.

It’s a simple piece of plastic, but it can help you reach your goals – or destroy your financial life. It’s a credit card. Even though they’re everywhere, you may not know the nitty gritty about them.

Before you decide to get that plastic and use it to rack up untold amounts of debt, you need to know the basics. First of all, it’s vital to understand that we’re not talking about your money here. It’s someone else’s money, and they are loaning it to you. It has to be repaid.

Credit cards can be great tools that lead to rewards and cash back and convenience. But you have to be careful and realistic. Here’s what you need to know about credit cards:

1. Not all credit cards are created equal.

Credit cards are one type of financial instrument that you can use, and they can, like insurance, be part of a well-rounded financial life. Like student loans or mortgages, though, not all credit cards are the same. Here are some examples of different types of credit cards:

  • Travel credit cards: These cards have rewards designed to benefit those who travel often. These protections and perks include no foreign transaction fees, free baggage check, access to exclusive airline lounges, bonus miles when you sign up and more. They can be pretty sweet when you use them right.
  • Cash back cards: Everyone loves cold, hard cash. Cards with cash-back rewards return a certain percentage of your purchases. Some cards offer cash back on all purchases, while some only do so for certain categories, like gas stations and grocery stores.
  • Business credit cards: Business credit cards come with different terms and conditions than personal credit cards, but usually have higher credit limits and different rewards to help those running their own operations.

I have all three types of credit cards and am a big proponent of them. I’ve earned free trips and thousands in benefits by using credit cards responsibly. A couple of my credit cards also give me free access to my credit score, so I can make sure I’m staying on track.

2. They can protect you.

Credit cards get a bad rap for encouraging people to spend money they don’t have. But cards also provide extra support. Many credit cards have fraud protection so you don’t have to pay for any purchases in case your card is lost or stolen.

Credit cards also let you dispute purchases. If you buy something on eBay that comes in damaged, you can dispute the transaction with the credit card issuer. I’ve used this a lot if I’m trying to return something defective or if I was unhappy with a service I received. Some cards also extend warranties for items you buy using the card.

Many cards have no foreign transaction fees, which usually cost 3%. If you go on vacation and spend $500 abroad, you’ll owe $15 in fees. If you rent a car, a credit card often has collision damage coverage on rentals, saving you about $20 a day.

These perks and protections can save your ass, so double-check your benefits. You might be surprised at what’s available – at no extra charge.

3. Always pay your balance.

4 Things You Should Know About Credit Cards

Your credit card statement shows your current balance, your minimum payment, and when your bill is due. The minimum payment is usually a very small percentage of what you owe (less than 5% of your total balance). If you only make the minimum payment, it can take you years to pay off even a small balance because most of your payment goes to interest charges.

For  example, if you have a $500 balance on your credit card with 15% interest and your minimum payment is $15, it will take you 44 months (according to Bankrate’s calculator) to pay off that balance. During that time, you’ll pay $150 in interest.

4. Don’t use them as an emergency fund.

According to Credit Karma, the average credit card limit in 2016 was $9,606. With access to that kind of cash, it can be tempting to think of your card as an emergency fund or backup in case you lose your job.

But that’s not a reason to use a credit card. If you don’t have the money to pay off your credit card balance at the end of the month, you’ll have to pay interest on your balance. The average APR for credit cards is about 15%. That’s a real pain in the ass when you’re trying to get started with a solid financial future.

If you don’t feel comfortable having access to so much money, you can call your credit card company and ask them to lower your credit limit. If you still end up spending more than you’re comfortable with, you may have to cancel your card.

Credit cards have a bad reputation, but they’re like casinos and lottery tickets. You can use them responsibly and enjoy their benefits or find that they lead you to temptation.

If you have a credit card, which one do you have?

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