Everything You Need to Know About Contactless Payments During COVID-19

Contactless payments allow consumers to pay for goods or services without needing to physically swipe a card in a machine or pass the card to another person. By tapping a phone or card on or near a terminal, near-field communication (NFC) enables the consumer to transmit payment information without physically touching anything. For a variety of reasons, U.S. consumers were slower than their global counterparts in adopting the technology, but due to the fear of COVID-19 infection, they are quickly catching up.

A new study from Visa shows that more than two thirds of customers say they would switch to businesses now offering contactless payment solutions. And more than three quarters of consumers say they have changed how they pay due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study involved a survey asking 250 business owners around the world their view of business operations in a post-COVID world, as well as a survey of 1,000 adult consumers asking about their payment and shopping habits.

And in a MasterCard survey of 1,000 Americans, 51 percent used contactless payments at the point of sale in March or April 2020, and half of those people said the COVID-19 pandemic prompted them to try the technology for the first time. Roughly half of U.S. consumers told MasterCard they’re using cash less, or not at all, due to the pandemic.

The pandemic rushed U.S. consumers to a place where the rest of the world already lived. In 2018, only 3 percent of cards in use in the U.S. were contactless as opposed to 64 percent in the U.K. and 96 percent in South Korea, according to a study by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

The Federal Reserve’s annual “Diary of Consumer Payment Choice” showed cash, which was the #1 payment method last year, came in second to debit cards this year. Credit cards were a close third place.

Here are just a few points regarding contactless payments:

  • Contactless Payment Most Important Safety Measure
    The Visa survey reports 46 percent of consumers believe contactless payments are the most important safety measure for retailers to provide.
  • Signature Required
    One thing contactless payments cannot help are required signatures. Some retailers are still requiring signatures even in the middle of a pandemic.
  • Public Transit
    Contactless payments allow commuters to speed through a subway turnstile versus waiting in line to load money onto a transit swipe card.
  • Digital Coupons & Loyalty Points
    Some grocery stores still require customers type in their phone number to redeem digital coupons and receive loyalty points despite simultaneously offering contactless payments. One workaround is asking the cashier to type in the number.

Consumers are rewarding businesses that put COVID-19 safety measures at the top of their priorities. With more and more consumers adopting contactless payments in response to COVID-19, businesses who offer the technology are finding an increase in demand.

Source: https://www.hostmerchantservices.com/2020/09/contactless-payments-during-covid-19/

Apple’s Mobeewave Deal Could Turn iPhones Into No-Dongle POS Devices—Just Not Right Away

Apple Inc. has reportedly acquired technology that enables smart phones equipped with near-field communication to act as point-of-sale devices with no other hardware. In the deal, news of which broke as the weekend began, the Cupertino, Calif.-based iPhone maker has bought Mobeewave Inc., a 9-year-old technology firm based in Montreal. The price was not disclosed, though sources contacted by Digital Transactions News say the deal may have closed as early as February and involved a price tag anywhere from $120 million to $150 million.

Mobeewave in October launched with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. a capability that allows mobile phones without dongles or other card-reader attachments to process card transactions via an NFC link between a contactless card and the device. In January, it followed up with a service that speeds up onboarding for merchants looking to exploit the capability.

Samsung’s Samsung Pay wallet is a keen rival for Apple’s Apple Pay, and Samsung, through its Samsung Ventures arm, late in January invested $3.5 million in Mobeewave in a Series B funding round. Previous investors include Mastercard Inc., which participated with two other firms in a November 2018 round. Now, the company has fallen into the hands of Apple. Contacts at Apple and Mobeewave did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Samsung’s wallet works on phones running the Android operating system, while Apple Pay relies on Apple’s iOS. As  a result, observers tell Digital Transactions News it may be some time before Apple can launch a product based on Mobeewave’s technology. “They are likely to abandon the Android/Samsung version, and move it to their own hardware platform,” says a source close to the market for dongle-free mobile acceptance. “Apple will need to have everything moved to the iPhone chipset, that will take time, we heard a year. These efforts usually take a long time.”

Still, the deal may well stimulate interest in and demand for technology that can enable off-the-shelf mobile phones to act as POS devices without the need for additional hardware. Some companies, such as Santa Clara, Calif.-based MagicCube Inc., have refined the concept, known also as Soft POS, further by offering PIN entry as well.

“This deal will only ignite the market for Soft POS. It will help other serious players in this new category,” says the source.

source: https://www.digitaltransactions.net/apples-mobeewave-deal-could-turn-iphones-into-no-dongle-pos-devices-just-not-right-away/

Mastercard Expands Online Search Tool To US, Canada

Mastercard has introduced new tools designed to help small businesses drive online commerce, the company announced Wednesday (June 8).

As businesses try to attract customers to their online and brick-and-mortar stores, Mastercard expanded ShopOpenings.com, an online search tool that tells which shops are open, bringing the search capability to the U.S. and Canada.

The site includes retailers from boutiques to restaurants and identifies merchants that accept contactless payments. ShopOpenings.com is targeted for mobile phone use to support consumers on the go. It is regularly updated to ensure the reliability of the information.

The company also introduced Digital Acceleration for Small Business, a global initiative to deliver insights and resources for small business owners looking to expand their business digitally and build an online presence. The project is being rolled out first in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Businesses large and small are the engine of growth for economies around the world and right now they need our collective support to navigate these uncharted times,” said Jess Turner, executive vice president products and innovation in North America for Mastercard, in a statement.

Leveraging Mastercard insights, the expanded ShopOpenings.com, built in partnership with data analysis company Sixth Sense, provides customers with an updated place to determine which local shops and businesses are open, Mastercard said.

This includes businesses reopening after closing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, Mastercard debuted its Recovery Insights tool that promises to help businesses and governments assess data during the pandemic to make smarter decisions.

The initiative will make some of Mastercard’s insight tools available for free. The company said the tools use data from a pool of information to give the best possible picture of financial health.

On Wednesday (July 7), Landry’s CEO Tilman Fertitta said the U.S. needs federal rules on how businesses can reopen, calling it ridiculous to keep closing and reopening as the virus wanes and surges.

“At some point, the federal government has got to take it away from the states, and you’ve got to have clarity,” he said. “This is so hard on businesses, it’s so hard on our employees.”

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Raphael Bostic said it would be important to look at how much of the economic and job losses would be permanent going forward due to the constantly shifting circumstances.

Source: https://www.pymnts.com/mastercard/2020/mastercard-expands-online-search-tool-to-us-canada/

Discover Says Fewer People Are Opting To Defer Credit Card Payments

With the pandemic, many credit card companies had set up ways for customers to defer paying what they would normally owe. Now, Discover says the amount of payments being deferred dropped 90% from April until early June — a sign that some distress may be easing.

If fewer people are deferring their credit card bills, they’re probably better able to pay them off, said Andrew Davidson at Comperemedia.

“Perhaps they got their stimulus check, perhaps they got unemployment benefits or maybe they even found a job,” Davidson said.

In the long run, Davidson said, it might be better for customers’ financial health to pay off that credit debt instead of deferring payments for longer.

“In most instances, interest still accrues, and so consumers are effectively kicking the can down the road,” he said.

Davidson said it’s also welcome news for the credit card companies when customers come off those deferral plans. That’s because banks don’t have to set aside as much cash in case people default.

Matt Schulz at Lending Tree said banks want to maintain good relationships with customers.

“It’s not just about somebody having a credit card, it’s about somebody having a credit card and then potentially being able to upsell them to a mortgage, or a car loan,” Schulz said.

And, he said, banks can now point out they were willing to cut customers some slack in a time of need.

Source: https://www.marketplace.org/2020/06/10/discover-credit-card-deferred-payments-forbearance/

How to Protect Your Credit Score During COVID-19

IF YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT protecting your credit score during the Coronavirus pandemic, then continue reading. It isn’t easy to maintain a good score while you’re experiencing a reduction in hours or maybe even a job loss.

But there is some good news in spite of these uncertain times. There are resources and programs for you to turn to for relief. So try to relax and read on to find out what you can do to keep your credit score where it is right now.

How Payment History Impacts Your Credit Score

There are dozens of different credit scores, but they all consider payment history to some degree. Since FICO scores are most often used, let’s take a look at payment history and other factors used by that score.

With FICO scores, there are five factors considered:

  • Payment history: 35%
  • Amounts owed: 30%
  • Length of credit history: 15%
  • New credit: 10%
  • Credit mix: 10%

To have a good credit score, it’s essential to have a low credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit used compared with the amount of credit available. For a good score, it needs to be less than 30%. But if you want an excellent score, you should keep it below 10%.

Now, you can see how important credit history is for a good credit score. Paying your bills on time is crucial. Even a 30-day late payment can make your credit score drop like a rock.

But these aren’t normal times, and you might be facing monthly expenses that your reduced income can no longer support. Fortunately, there’s help to protect your credit score. But first, we’ll begin by prioritizing your debt so you know which bills you should pay first.

How to Prioritize Your Debt

Many Americans are struggling to pay bills due to the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis. So many Americans have lost jobs, taken pay cuts or had hours reduced. And if you were already living paycheck to paycheck and you don’t have a sizable emergency fund, then times are especially tough for you.

There are two different types of debt: secured and unsecured. If you can pay some of your bills but not all of them in one month, then the choice is simple. You start by paying secured debts first.

What Are Secured Debts?

These are debts tied to a tangible asset, such as a house or a car. If you don’t pay your mortgage, for instance, you could eventually lose your home due to a foreclosure. Your car loan is similar. Your car might be repossessed if you don’t make your monthly installment payments.

And if you don’t make your payments on time, it also will drop your credit score by quite a bit. The higher your score, the bigger the drop when you make late payments that get reported to the bureaus.

Mortgage relief options. If you can cover your mortgage payment, do so. But if you can’t? Call your lender today.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act became law on March 27. The CARES Act offers relief for federally backed mortgages. Your lender cannot foreclose on you for 60 days after March 18. And if you’ve had a money crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, you can request a forbearance for up to 180 days.

If your mortgage is backed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, you also won’t incur late fees or have delinquencies reported to the credit bureaus temporarily.

But if your mortgage isn’t backed by the government, your best bet is to call your lender and ask for help. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a guide to coronavirus mortgage relief to help you find the right options.

Auto loan payments. The first thing to do is contact your lender. If you miss a payment or default on your loan, it will stay on your credit report for seven years. The impact on your credit score decreases as the years go by, but right now, your goal is to keep your score as high as you can.

Most auto lenders have announced payment deferral programs, but each lender has its own terms and conditions. The important thing is to call before you miss a payment. That’s the best strategy to protect your credit right now.

And under the CARES Act, your lender can’t file a negative report on you to a credit bureau if you have a payment accommodation in place. But if you’ve missed a payment since Jan. 31, you may have a harder time working out an agreement. Don’t wait to call!

What Are Unsecured Debts?

With an unsecured debt, your lender doesn’t hold any collateral to cover the debt. For instance, credit card debt is an unsecured debt because there isn’t a tangible asset that your lender can take from you.

Other examples include unsecured personal loans, student loans, payday loans and medical debt. The impact of missing any of these payments is similar. If you don’t pay as agreed, your tardiness gets reported to the bureaus and your credit score drops.

Credit card payments. The CARES Act offers temporary credit score protection to those who are unable to make their minimum monthly payments. If your account is currently in good standing, you can ask your lender for a payment accommodation.

Once you have a written agreement in place, your lender won’t report negative information to the credit bureaus right now. This is a huge relief for those who have paid their bills on time and believe their financial health will return.

But the CARES Act won’t help you protect your credit score if you’ve already missed payments or defaulted. So act now and contact your issuers. Let them know your situation and that you want to work out an accommodation to protect your credit.

Aside from the CARES Act, credit card issuers have been voluntarily providing some financial relief, such as allowing you to skip a payment or offering you a temporarily lower annual percentage rate. Call your issuer and find out what your best options are.

Student loan payments. The CARES Act also offers relief for student loans. The Office of Federal Student Aid has taken the step to place student loan borrowers in forbearance, which means you can stop making monthly payments through Sept. 30. Make the payments if you can, but if you can’t, take advantage of this opportunity.

Check with your loan servicer to find out what other relief options might be available. You can also find information about student loans and the coronavirus pandemic at Federal Student Aid.

Unsecured personal loans. Personal loans are installment loans. As with credit cards, credit relief options differ among lenders. There’s also some protection under the CARES Act if you have an accommodation in place with your lender. Again, you need to call and work out a payment plan.

How Long Will the CARES Act Offer Credit Protection?

The CARES Act legislation likely will remain in effect well into the summer and perhaps longer. Right now, just focus on making the payments that you can on secured debt. What’s left over can go toward essentials and payments on unsecured debt.

Yes, there’s still a chance your credit score might suffer before this crisis is over. Having a great score is important, but right now, it’s more important to focus on staying afloat. Once your personal economy is restored and you start paying down debt, your credit score will begin bouncing back.

Source: https://creditcards.usnews.com/articles/how-to-protect-your-credit-score-during-covid-19

Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments

As we face the grim reality of the global coronavirus pandemic, businesses around the world are confronting the enormity of the challenges ahead of them. The need to minimize the risk faced by vulnerable public-facing employees is particularly important.

Thankfully, there are steps many businesses can take to reduce in-person contact. There are ways your business can minimize such exposure by accepting remote payments — both online and over the phone.

Is Cash Still Safe to Handle?

Cash is an efficient means of germ transmission even in the best of times. A Swiss study from 2008 found that, in some circumstances, flu viruses can survive up to 17 days on the surface of cash. Considering the heightened dangers we currently face, preparing your business to accept cashless and card-not-present transactions has never been more crucial. We understand that the nature of certain types of businesses will preclude the possibility of everyone doing this at scale, but there are ways to accept payments from your customers that don’t involve the exchange of cash or even a credit/debit card.

You Can Still Accept Payments From Customers Who Aren’t Present At Your Place Of Business

If you’re considering shutting down your office and switching your business to delivery-only, know that you can get paid without having to send out invoices. Thankfully, you can accept payments both online and, via a virtual terminal over the phone. If you haven’t gone this route in the past, we’ll explain how it works.

Of course, accepting these kinds of payments presents security challenges along with logistical challenges.

Security Concerns For Card-Not-Present Transactions

When accepting payments remotely, you’re responsible for ensuring the security of your customers’ payment information. The key to achieving this is to make sure that your payment system is PCI-compliant.

  • PCI compliance refers to a set of standards established in 2006 to ensure the security of all customer payment information that is sent and received online
  • Some of the practices that will help ensure your business remains PCI compliant include:
    • Use only PCI-validated payment gateway software
    • Don’t store any sensitive cardholder data
    • Use a firewall on your network and computers
    • Never use default passwords
    • Check that your wireless router is password-protected and uses encryption
    • Check your terminals, PIN pads, and computers to ensure that no one has installed rogue software or “skimming” devices
    • Educate your employees about security and protecting cardholder data

If you don’t take the steps necessary to protect your customers’ credit card information properly, you could easily suffer a data breach that puts your customers’ finances at risk — a development which would not reflect well on your business and lead to a general loss of trust in your enterprise.

Accepting Over-The-Phone Payments

Businesses in certain industries are more likely than others to be familiar with the ins and outs of taking payments over the phone. For instance, restaurants often use POS systems that include a feature for taking orders remotely and processing remote payments.

Alternatively, many businesses may find that a virtual terminal is their best option for accepting payments over the phone. For those who don’t know, a virtual terminal is a means of accepting credit card payments without the credit card being physically present. They are typically web-based and involve you entering your customers’ credit card information into a secure web page for processing.

Many POS systems and virtual terminals have a vault feature that keeps your customers’ information stored on file for later use. This allows your customers to simply direct you to charge their card on file when making a purchase. Note that this is acceptable from a security standpoint because the information is not stored on your site or your devices. Instead, it is all encrypted and stored with the processor.

Accepting Online Payments

Paying for goods and services online has become commonplace over the last few decades — although your business may not have experience with how it all works. In this section, we’re going to run through some common scenarios and let you know how to accept online payments in each instance.

Online Restaurant Orders

Most modern restaurant POS software will include online ordering and delivery functionality (along with payment processing, of course). If you have such a system and you haven’t taken advantage of these features yet, contact your POS provider and ask about how you can implement these features.

Retail eCommerce

If you’re running a brick-and-mortar establishment and you’re setting up eCommerce for the first time, your existing credit card processor should be able to help you set up your online eCommerce system.

Invoices & Online Payment Forms

If you’re trying to further reduce the need for in-person exchanges of payment, you can use invoices and payment forms to send custom links to your customers that allow them to enter their credit card information remotely. This has the benefit of being both safer and faster/more efficient than the use of old-fashioned paper invoices and checks

Is Now Really The Time To Switch My Payment Setup?

Clearly, a global pandemic is not an ideal time for any business to be trying to switch up their payment processing system in order to save a few bucks. However, as the established ways of doing business are being upended at a dizzying pace, businesses everywhere will have to adapt in order to both remain viable and protect the health and safety of employees and customers alike.

Source: https://www.merchantmaverick.com/processing-payments-disaster/

For more information on switching to online or phone payments, contact your Sales Agent.

United Airlines, Chase and Visa Announce Multi-Year Extension of United MileagePlus Credit Card Program

United Airlines, Chase Card Services and Visa announced a multi-year extension of the United MileagePlus credit card program. The extension continues the more than 30-year relationship between the number one card issuer in the U.S., the U.S. airline with service to the most U.S. cities and most countries around the world and the world’s leader in digital payments.

The agreement, which extends into 2029, builds on one of the industry’s strongest co-brand card portfolios with seven consecutive quarters of double-digit year-over-year growth and a long history of providing cardmembers with extra benefits that reward people traveling United’s expansive global route network.

“United Airlines, Chase and Visa have a longstanding partnership that delivers top benefits to customers to help them get the most out of their travel, while returning robust value to our respective businesses,” said Luc Bondar, United’s vice president of Loyalty. “This extension strengthens ties with our partners at Chase and Visa and is expected to drive growth across our industry-leading credit card portfolio, enhance our cardholders travel experience and provide more opportunities to easily earn and redeem miles to travel United’s industry leading route network.”

“We’re pleased to extend our decades-long relationship with United and Visa in order to deliver even more value to our joint cardmembers,” said Ed Olebe, president of Chase Co-Brand Cards. “The program has deep cardmember loyalty and fantastic momentum, with exciting new offerings and experiences for our customers to look forward to in 2020 and beyond.”

The extended agreement will build on one of the world’s strongest co-brand card portfolios, with premium customers in premium markets. The portfolio of cards includes the new United Business Card, United Explorer Card, United Club Card, United Club Business Card and United TravelBank Card. Customers traveling with eligible MileagePlus credit cards have access to benefits that make traveling United’s leading route network better than ever including perks such as free checked bags, priority boarding and increased mileage earn on every day spending.

“Visa is proud to extend our partnership with United and Chase to bring best-in-class card benefits and travel experiences to cardholders,” said Kirk Stuart, senior vice president, head of North America Merchant at Visa. “We look forward to building on the program’s success to deliver more value, enhance cardholder engagement and create rewarding payment experiences.”

Earlier this year, United and Chase launched a new Business card and celebrated with the highest ever bonuses for all United co-brand cards for the first time ever. In 2018, United and Chase launched the award-winning United Explorer card, with even more best-in-class benefits including an up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check statement credit and 2X earn on hotel stays and restaurant purchases.

United also continues to invest in making MileagePlus the top loyalty program for its members. Last year the airline announced that MileagePlus miles never expire and announced a partnership with CLEAR to offer free and discounted memberships to MileagePlus members. United also introduced PlusPoints, a new industry-leading upgrade benefit for Premier members.  

source: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-airlines-chase-and-visa-announce-multi-year-extension-of-united-mileageplus-credit-card-program-301009329.html

Report: Changes in Visa’s Interchange Rate Schedule Coming This Year

Visa Inc. reportedly is planning interchange rate changes that could raise merchants’ acceptance costs for card-not-present transactions but lower costs in some other categories, including purchases at big grocery-store chains.

Citing a Visa document circulating among the network’s client banks, the Bloomberg news service reported Tuesday that interchange for a $100 card-not-present purchase with a premium credit card could rise 4% to $2.60 from the current $2.50. The same purchase with a standard Visa credit card would increase nearly 5% to $1.99 from the current $1.90.

Report: Changes in Visa’s Interchange Rate Schedule Coming This Year – Digital Transactions

Interchange on a $50 premium card transaction at a high-volume supermarket, however, will drop 33%, to 77 cents from $1.15. (Visa’s current interchange schedule for high-volume supermarket transactions lists the fee for “traditional rewards” and certain other credit cards at 1.15% plus 5 cents per transaction.) Rates in some services categories, including education and real estate, also are expected to decline, the news service said.

Visa reportedly will roll out the new rates in April and October to give processors time to implement the changes, according to Bloomberg. Both Visa and Mastercard Inc. typically update their interchange rate schedules in April of each year and sometimes make further adjustments six months later.

Visa declined a Digital Transactions News request for comment. Apart from occasional minor adjustments, interchange rates—always a controversial topic among merchants, who ultimately bear the cost—have been stable since at least 2012, according to studies by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Since then, however, the use of higher-interchange premium cards has increased, and merchants are paying more in network fees.

“Let’s be blunt,” the Retail Industry Leaders Association trade group said in a Tuesday statement. “Visa teasing that rates will go down for ‘some’ is masking the true impetus for this plan—their aim is to hike rates on the vast majority of merchants.”

The Bloomberg report claims “Visa is planning the biggest changes to swipe fees in a decade.” Quoting from the Visa document, the report says “‘the U.S. credit interchange structure has been largely unchanged for the past 10 years. Based on the most recent review in the U.S., Visa is adjusting its default U.S. interchange rate structure to optimize acceptance and usage and reflect the current value of Visa products.’”

An analysis from New York City-based investment firm Keefe Bruyette & Woods says the coming Visa changes will likely affect small and mid-sized businesses more than big ones. Large national merchants with enough transaction clout can and do negotiate their own rates with the networks, whereas smaller retailers’ card costs are based on the official rate schedules. The networks charge interchange to merchant acquirers, who invariably pass the cost on to their merchants.

The KBW report by analyst Sanjay Sakhrani says Visa’s planned changes will help realign “some aspects of the company’s interchange structure between high-value card-not-present transactions and lower-value card transactions. Over time, we think the changes could help Visa volumes, as SMBs could be more inclined to accept card[s] with the lower rates.”

Sakhrani further said he expects Mastercard to follow suit “if it hasn’t done so already.” And for American Express Co., “we believe that the change is mildly positive as it strengthens [AmEx’s] argument that in many cases the rates on premium Visa (and Mastercard) credit cards are equal to or higher than the discount rate it charges merchants.”

The KBW report also says Visa’s move could be “transitory positive” for acquirers “as they are typically able to tack on additional fees when fee changes occur.”

Source: http://www.digitaltransactions.net/report-changes-in-visas-interchange-rate-schedule-coming-this-year/

How To Improve Your Credit Score

Your days are numbered—by your credit score. Your credit score is something you can never get rid of. Once used for the purpose of obtaining credit cards, now your score can be used for determining interest rates for loans, for insurance premiums, employment and rentals. FICO or the Fair Isaac Corporation determines your credit score. This is the breakdown of how it’s handled:

  • 35% = payment history.
  • 30% = amounts owed.
  • 15% = length of credit history.
  • 10% = new credit.
  • 10% = kinds of credit.

The range of FICO scores are 300 to 850. Most fall into the 650 and above range. Less than 20 percent fall into the poor credit scores range, the rest somewhere in the middle. The flailing economy caused creditors and banks to tighten the reigns on credit scores and who they will lend to—what used to be a good score, may now be quantified and qualified as a poorer score depending on the creditor’s determining factors. If you can pay down your debt, you are on the road to FICO recovery.

Pay Down Existing Credit Cards
The jury’s out regarding the most effective way to pay down debt and up your credit score. You can “snowball” your debt by paying off the lowest balances first, then use that momentum to pay off your larger balance cards. You can pay off your high interest rate cards first or pay them all down just enough to up your score. This means that all cards must have a debt-to-limit ratio of no more than 30 percent. Then you have to keep it that way. For many, it’s a lifestyle adjustment and a difficult one.

Apply For A Secured Credit Card
Secured credit cards are backed by a savings account which acts as collateral for your account. Your credit line usually equals the amount of money in that savings account. Some secured cards will offer special incentives such as credit lines 1.5 times or double the savings account. Beware that fees can be quite high and that you likely won’t have the same kind of benefits that a non-secured card issues.

Don’t Use The Whole Credit Line
Keep your debt-to-credit line ratio under 30 percent. The more you inch toward your credit line, the less creditworthy you appear. Finance charges, late and over-the-limit and other account maintenance fees can bring you closer to your credit line or snag you over it. Keep your charges low by using cash or debit cards or by spreading your charges over another credit card or two.

Ask A Creditor For Forgiveness
It never hurts to phone your creditor and ask for forgiveness for making a late payment or missing a payment. Many credit cards offer payment protection plans. Read the fine print to see if such a plan is right for you. Payment protection plans can offer one or more months payment forbearance or forgiveness, especially if you have recently changed jobs, had a baby or just need a month off from payment. But such plans come with monthly price tags, some quite high.

Don’t Bounce Checks
Non-sufficient fund checks don’t generally show up on your credit report until they have gone through a legal process or judgment. If you bounce a check, you will be paying bounced check fees to all the parties involved, save yourself. This can be quite costly, especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck as most Americans are these days. This takes money away from other bills, household expenses, including food and rent. If checks are presented twice, often it’s twice the fees—and a downward spiral into indebtedness. Then you play catch-up and rarely does robbing Peter to pay Paul catch you up.

Pay Bills On Time
Don’t be late on your bill payments—not once. Some creditors will report late payments before the customary 30 days. Most wait until you are 30 days late—or whatever mandates your creditor has in writing. When in doubt, call your creditor. Ask for a grace period; get everything in writing by snail mail or email. Verify that your creditor waits 30 days to report if you need extra time to pay. Just don’t miss a payment.

Get A Collection Agency To Remove A Debt From Your Credit Report If You Pay Right Away
Once a collection agency reports to one of the three credit bureaus, the data stays on your record for seven years—bankruptcies up to 10 years. The credit bureau will only list that the account has been paid. It will still show up as negative data until the seven years is up. Many people confuse this timeframe with the statute of limitations on unpaid credit accounts, which varies by state. Bottom line: the collection agency cannot remove the debt from your credit report.

Avoid Constantly Switching Employers
Job-hopping may look like you are rising in the ranks on your resume—but not to a creditor. Your credit score may suffer a hit if you appear to be unstable in the job market. Creditors like to see routine: routine job habits, routine payment habits. Changing jobs to them usually means that you may be starting with a new budget to acclimate to the new income system. Five years is a stable appearance.

Avoid Constantly Changing Residences
Just like avoiding job changes; you should avoid changing your address too often. Credit bureaus list address changes on your reports. Too many changes make you appear less creditworthy and unstable to potential creditors. The more years you appear to stay at one address, the more reliable you appear.

Review Your Credit Report Once A Year
There are three credit bureaus that keep tabs on your credit usage. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion catalogue your credit history, payments made or not made, credit inquiries and legal issues regarding your credit. They do not determine your creditworthiness; your creditor does that. The credit bureaus simply record data as well as your FICO credit score. It’s in your best interest to review your credit report annually.

Source: https://www.hostmerchantservices.com/articles/credit-card-articles/improve-your-credit-score/

NEW DATA: Millennials Were Black Friday’s Big Spenders In 2019

Black Friday is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season and this year 151 million consumers got their Black Friday shopping groove on. This year, that groove was more online than at a physical store, but with all income groups spending at least 25 percent more this year than last. Millennials were the biggest spenders. That’s according to a hot-off-the-presses PYMNTS study of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers to find out what they bought, where they shopped and how they paid. Here’s what we learned.

What did you do the Friday after Thanksgiving? PYMNTS asked 2,000 consumers that very same question – and what they told us may surprise you.

Of course, the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. is known as “Black Friday” — the traditional start of the holiday shopping season in the U.S. Once upon a time, that meant shoppers lining up outside brick-and-mortar stores at 5 a.m. that day to be among the first to grab those infamous “doorbuster” deals — proudly proclaiming the accounts of their retail adventures at the holiday family gatherings to come — until the smartphone came along.

Today, instead of setting the alarm for 4 a.m. to get in line, consumers go online — popping open apps and letting their fingers and thumbs do the shopping.

This year was no exception.

What our 2,000 consumers told us is probably indicative of your behavior, too.  Our findings suggest that not only is Black Friday increasingly digital, but that going digital has reshaped the holiday shopping experience in many unexpected ways.

For instance, 40 percent of U.S. consumers didn’t shop on Black Friday at all. Those who did shopped at physical stores less. And they did a lot of buying for themselves.

Black Friday shopping — in terms of the number of consumers who observed this holiday shopping ritual — is roughly the same as we saw last year. In 2019, 59.5 percent of U.S. consumers (151 million) bought at least one thing at a store the day after Thanksgiving, down ever so slightly from 61.8 percent (157 million) in 2018. Those who didn’t say they didn’t because of store crowding, that they did not need anything, could not afford it or they prefer to spend their time doing other things. Those who did went hunting for deals (more on that later).

In 2019, we saw consumers are trading standing in line at the physical store more for the ease and convenience of buying online. About one in five consumers (20.4 percent) who shopped on Black Friday only did so online, up 10 percent from 18.6 percent in 2018. One in five consumers (20.2 percent) only went to a physical store to shop on Black Friday in-store, compared to 25.6 percent a year before. That’s a decrease of 21 percent.

The Black Friday reality though is a little mix of both. The Black Friday shopper is an omnichannel shopper with 18.2 percent of shoppers buying online and in the store. That is up slightly from 2018, as a result of fewer people going to the physical store to shop.

We also observed that Black Friday shopping has also become less about shopping for others and more about shopping for “me.”

This year, more than 23.2 percent of consumers said that they spent more than 90 percent of their Black Friday shopping dollars on buying gifts for others, compared to 22.3 percent in 2018. Not quite a quarter — but close — of all Black Friday shoppers said that 90 percent or more of their purchases were for themselves.

We see some interesting differences by shopping channel too.  Slightly more than half (56 percent) of shoppers in the store spent more than 40 percent on “gifts” for themselves this year (compared to 48.2 percent in 2018), while 59 percent of Black Friday online shoppers spent more than 40 percent of their budgets on gifts for others in 2019.

All Consumers Spent More On Black Friday In 2019, But Millennials Spent The Most

Consumers across every income bracket increased their Black Friday spending by 34.1 percent between 2018 and 2019, on average. The largest increase in spending was among those earning more than $100,000 in annual income, who spent $143.70 more than last year. Black Friday shoppers earning between $50,000 and $100,000 per year spent $80.40 more than last year, and those earning less than $50,000 spent $47.10 more than last year, on average.

As a percent of their income, though, the percent of the increase in spending across each of these income brackets was similar. Consumers who earned less than $50,000 per year spent 25.9 percent more in 2019 than in 2018, while those who made between $50,000 and $100,000 per year spent 25.5 percent more. Consumers who earned more than $100,000 in annual income were the outliers here, having spent 34.1 percent more on Black Friday than they did last year.

This year, millennials were the big Black Friday spenders, shelling out an average of $509.50 on Black Friday purchases this year, compared to an average of just $382.40 in 2018. More millennials in the workforce mean more millennials with money to spend on holiday presents (as well as for themselves).

Bridge millennials, those between 30 and 40 years of age who “bridge” the age gap between Generation X and millennials, spent big, too, shelling out an average $479.40 on Black Friday this year — the second-highest average of any age group.

Both millennials and bridge millennials prefer to buy gifts for others online, with 48 percent and 54.1 percent of their Black Friday spend for holiday gifts happening online and not in physical stores.

Deals Drive Black Friday Shoppers To The Physical Store – But Not As Much As They Used To

Not surprisingly, given Black Friday’s roots in physical retail, retailers have trained shoppers that Black Friday is “deal day” and to expect those big “doorbuster” savings in their stores. And that is what still drives many shoppers to the physical store on that day. This year, 53 percent of consumers who bought at least one item in-store said that they did it to get access to those special deals.

But the percent of Black Friday shoppers who do that is down from last year when 59.1 percent of Black Friday shoppers said they specifically went to the physical store to get a deal.

Ease and convenience, which drives so much of the consumer’s online shopping experience every other day of the year, also seems to be driving the behaviors now of Black Friday shoppers. Deals are still key, but convenience trumps the deal for most – and mostly because consumers can now get many of the same great deals online. Sixty-five (65) percent of Black Friday shoppers who bought at least one thing online, did so at least in part because it was easy and convenient. In-store deal hunters, apparently show an abundance of patience, spending as many as 8 hours or more tracking them down.

Buying Clothes Topped The Black Friday Shopping List Again In 2019

Black Friday spending in both 2018 and 2019 was primarily driven by purchases of clothing and accessories, with a sharp increase in the number of consumers making those purchases online. Even though just as many Black Friday shoppers who bought clothes bought them in the physical store this year (57.3 percent in 2019, 57.8 percent in 2018), nearly as many made those purchases online. In 2019, 56 percent of Black Friday shoppers who bought clothes did so online, up from 49.7 percent in 2018.

Electronics came in second place again this year, but with a shift to online purchasing as well. Only 44.6 percent of respondents who shopped on Black Friday this year bought electronics in-store, down from 48.3 percent who did so last year. We found that 51.6 percent of respondents who shopped on Black Friday this past weekend bought electronic goods online, up from 47.4 percent who did so last year.

Credit cards, debit cards and cash – in that order – were what Black Friday shoppers used to pay for their purchases. And shoppers used them mostly at Amazon and Walmart.

Credit cards, debit cards and cash were kings on Black Friday as more than 50 percent of all Black Friday shoppers chose credit when checking out at the physical store or online. As seen in Figure 8, 49.3 percent of brick-and-mortar shoppers and 54.3 percent of online shoppers used credit cards to pay for what they bought in 2019, with 42 percent and 36 percent of Black Friday shoppers opting for debit cards in-store and online, respectively.

PayPal saw a big uptick online by Black Friday shoppers, with roughly a quarter of all Black Friday online shoppers using it to make a purchase. So did Amazon Pay, not surprisingly since nearly three-quarters of Black Friday shoppers in our study reported making at least one Black Friday purchase at Amazon using their buy button.

Alt credit providers, including PayPal Credit, Affirm, Afterpay, Sezzle and Klarna were among the options that a few Black Friday shoppers said they used at least once, as well.

Consumers also reported using credit cards less often online this year as they did last year. We attribute at least part of that reported shift to be the result of an increase in the use of online wallets like PayPal and the other “Pays” that have registered credit card credentials available to enable their purchases.

Even millennials used credit cards to pay for their purchases, with 49.2 percent reporting that credit cards were how they paid for their online Black Friday purchases and 46.5 percent saying they paid using credit cards for in-store purchases. Millennials also reported using debit (41.1 percent online and 45.2 percent in store) as well as alt payments providers, including the Pays and alt credit platforms. Bridge millennial payments preferences reflect nearly identical payments preferences.

As mentioned, Amazon topped the list of all Black Friday shopping destinations, with 73 percent of Black Friday shoppers making at least one purchase there. A distant second is Walmart with 38 percent and large national chains such as Macys and Nordstrom, with roughly 28 percent of Black Friday shoppers making a purchase those stores.

Black Friday Is Just The Beginning, And Not The End, Of The Consumer’s Holiday Shopping

As you no doubt noticed, the consumer’s inbox was flooded with Black Friday deals long before Black Friday. Pre-Black Friday deals and VIP access to Black Friday specials have made Black Friday a multi-day shopping event that bleeds into Cyber Monday and the mad rush to the holiday finish line.

It’s a good thing.

Eighty-two percent of the consumers in our survey plan to finish purchasing holiday gifts after Black Friday, with 6 percent saying they will not be done until after Christmas.  As long as retailers continue to deck the halls with deals, consumers, it seems, will continue to let their fingers and thumbs do the shopping.