Angelic entrepreneurship with a cause

Amber Dawn Shopay of Woodland Hills, California, is a veteran businesswoman whose past successful ventures include a day spa, a bakery and a restaurant. Her newest venture, Global Angel, is a platform for people to give back as they shop – from apparel to face masks, 25% of every purchase goes to a charity of the buyer’s choice.

Global Angel started with a confluence of events. Shopay discovered her desire to donate to charities after her best friend was diagnosed with stage 3 thyroid cancer. And while on a trip to Mexico, she was moved after meeting a group of young female soccer players with no pitch to play on. Finally, in 2018, the devastating Woolsey Fire broke out in Southern California, burning nearly 97,000 acres and devastating Malibu and other coastal communities.

“I started Global Angel so I could help people contribute to the charities they believe in,” says Shopay. “The Woolsey Fire was the final spark for me, but everyone has something they want to support. Shoppers can select the charities I already have partnerships with, but they can also choose one of their own. When they do, I reach out and make the connection and add it to the drop-down menu. The charity is always so appreciative, and my customers love it. It just makes people happy, and I’ve met so many great nonprofits this way. Some I’ve never heard of before and I love that, such as Color of Change.”

Shopay had investors for the earlier companies that she launched, but starting Global Angel was different. This time around, all the financing was self-generated – by use of her own credit cards.

See related: Fancy footwear and business brilliance

Can you take us back to the beginning of your business? What was your first task?  

To create a budget. Like any new company, you have to do that. It’s all about Excel spreadsheets, plotting and planning and getting it done.

Having a budget helped with any cuts I needed to make so the company would be financially viable. There was no book telling me how to do all this. I had to learn by doing. I had to come up with a lot of money in a short period of time!

What kind of large expenses did you have to pay for on the fly?

Well, I just bought a truck and I put it on my credit card – I had to get it. I wanted a mobile boutique so I could pull up in people’s driveways. This way, a person and her friends could go shopping in their own home.

I used a credit card instead of a loan because I got a better deal this way. The people I bought it from live two blocks away from me and said they would give me a discount if I bought it directly. I used my Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card because it has a high credit line and offers great rewards.

Do you have any other credit cards for the business? 

Yes, I have the Marriot Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card and First Bankcard. I got both for the business. I use this card a lot but pay it off every month. Not every place takes American Express, however, so it’s good to have the Visa and Mastercard.

We’re going to keep introducing more items and will be expanding, but I feel I’m pretty set on credit cards now.

See related: Best business credit cards

What types of expenses do you typically charge? 

I charge a lot. New designs, materials, paying manufacturers, screen printing and a storage unit all go on the card. Some expenses, like utilities, I have on autopay so I don’t have to think about them.

Because I charge so much, I have accumulated a number of rewards. Some I reinvest into the business, but I am saving most for travel when it’s safe to do it. I have hundreds of thousands of points now!

As for credit card debt, I don’t keep it long. I never go more than three months before paying something off. 

See related: Rewards debit cards vs. Rewards credit cards

Do you have an accountant or do you DIY? 

I use Quickbooks Pro Desktop, so I do all my own bookkeeping. In fact, the first thing I do every day is check my accounts so I can easily reconcile my books at the end of the month. It only takes 10 minutes and it’s my opportunity to make sure everything is in order.

Is good credit important to you as a business owner?

Absolutely! Everything that you want to do is contingent on good credit. If I want to rent a new space or take out a loan with a low-interest rate, I need it. In business, you have to be ready for anything. I check my credit every day to stay on top of what’s going on.

But I’ve always had good credit. Ten years ago, I bought a house and I learned how important it is to have it. It’s part of being responsible in all aspects of life. I got that from my dad. He always said, “When you meet someone, you shake their hands and look them in the eye. I don’t care how busy you are, you acknowledge people.” That carries on through the way I do business. Stand up and face people – and that includes creditors.

What are the plans for the business? 

The truck is super exciting. We’re starting with one and will see how it goes. Right now, it makes a lot of sense because many people don’t want to go to a store or mall, but they also want to try things on. This way, we can go to them, and they can try the clothes on in the truck. It’s really fun and safe (we’re taking peoples temperatures before they go in). We may park it at farmers’ markets, too.

Do you have any regrets?  

No, I’ve loved it all and wouldn’t change my path for the world. Even the failures – and I’ve had them.

For example, for one of my very first shirts that I designed, I took the advice of someone I didn’t agree with. He was in the manufacturing business for so long that I said, “Okay, he knows more than me.”

In the end, I wasn’t happy with it – and it cost me about $8,000. It was an important lesson because it made me stronger. I re-did the shirt the way it should have been in the beginning. I learned I can trust myself.

What have you learned about using credit cards that you would tell other small business owners?  

There’s nothing scary about credit cards as long as you have a budget with real numbers. Project. You have to do it so you don’t overspend and then get into trouble. With the rewards, credit cards make your money work for you. So, borrow when you have to, but take care of the balance quickly. I am often debt-free, but I paid the truck off in three months.

Keep track of your credit scores, too. You don’t know when you may want to finance something, and you’ll want to get the best interest rates to keep costs low. The more aware you are of them, the more you can do when you need to.

Any final advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out? 

You’re talking to a dreamer! I have a lot of faith – I know I’ll get where I need to go. If you really want to start a business, you can do it. You’ll encounter problems but there’s always a solution.

Also, find someone you respect who is in the same business and contact them for guidance. Your mentors are so critical because they’ll help you when you’re confused about something. Choosing the right people to trust can seem hard but you’ll know who they are. I knew that guy was giving me bad advice and I should have listed to my gut. Follow your heart. We all have our own answers.

Source: creditcards.com

How I earned more than $2,500 using credit cards in 2020

I racked up $1,732 in cash back from my 2020 credit card spending (a 2.8% return). If you include the $500 introductory bonus I earned on one of those cards, the total increased to $2,232 (a 3.6% return). Using a credit card that offers purchase protection, I also received $299 to repair a broken Apple Watch. Throw that in, and my total was $2,531 (a 4.1% return).

All of this proves why credit cards can be so valuable. I didn’t pay any interest in 2020, which is key to any good credit card rewards strategy, because the average credit card interest currently sits above 16%. I also only paid one annual fee ($95), which I factored into my calculations.

That was for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, and it was well worth the fee. I used the card mostly for groceries because it offers 6% cash back on up to $6,000 of annual spending at U.S. supermarkets, then 1% after that. I maxed out that limit, which was worth $360 of cash back all by itself.

I also benefited from the card’s 6% cash back on select streaming subscriptions and 3% at U.S. gas stations.  And I nabbed another $43 in cash back via Amex Offers. Even after accounting for the annual fee, I earned a total of 5.6% cash back on this card in 2020.

Read more from our credit card experts.

Ask Ted a question.

The other cards I used

I also earned 5.6% cash back on my spending on the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card. That surprised me, because the COVID-19 pandemic cut substantially into my travel and dining spending (this card gives 3% cash back on both categories). I did take one big trip in early 2020 though.

Later in the year, I took advantage of a few 10% cash back grocery promotions through the Wells Fargo Earn More Mall. The biggest surprise I uncovered while preparing this year-end recap was how much the card-linked offer promotions added up on my Propel and Blue Cash Preferred cards.

My Chase Freedom Flex℠ card yielded a 4.4% total return. I started the year with the Chase Freedom and switched to the Freedom Flex once it debuted in September. I maxed out two of the four quarterly 5% cash back promotions (cardholders need to activate these and they’re capped at $1,500 in spending, then you earn 1% after that). I came close in another quarter and hit roughly half of the limit in the other. This is also the card I have to thank for my $299 purchase protection claim.

For categories that I couldn’t maximize on one of these cards, I started the year putting everything else on the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card (1.5% back on all purchases). In February, I signed up for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, and that became my primary “everything else” card because it gives 2 miles per dollar on all purchases.

While this is technically a travel card, Capital One expanded the card’s redemption options soon after the pandemic hit to include statement credits (akin to 2% cash back) on eligible takeout, delivery and streaming services. The promotion has been extended through April 30, 2021, and it has worked out very well for me.

got at least some relief in 2020.

I think I’m an especially good candidate because I use this card a lot. If I’m turned down, I’ll have to consider switching to a no annual fee 2% cash back card like the PayPal Cash Back Mastercard the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature card or the Citi® Double Cash Card, which gives you 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay it off.

My top card suggestions for 2021

Someone who wants even more simplicity might opt for the Alliant Visa Signature Card. It gives 2.5% cash back on all purchases, although there’s a $99 annual fee (waived the first year). The 2.5% rate is capped at $10,000 in monthly spending. Factoring in the annual fee, you need to spend $20,000 or more annually to come out ahead with the Alliant Visa Signature, compared to a 2% cash back card.

In your first year as a cardholder, the Discover it® Miles card is also particularly lucrative. The card offers 1.5 miles on all purchases, but Discover will automatically match any earned cash back in your first year as a cardholder, effectively earning you 3 miles per dollar. After the first year, the rewards rate drops to 1.5 miles per dollar.

If you have at least $100,000 in eligible savings or investments, Bank of America has a couple compelling options through its Preferred Rewards program. At that threshold, cardholders earn a 75% rewards bonus. That means the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card would offer 5.25% cash back on a monthly category of your choosing, 3.5% on grocery and wholesale club purchases and 1.75% on everything else (the top two categories are capped at $2,500 in combined quarterly spending).

Meanwhile, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card would give 3.5% cash back on travel and dining and 2.625% on everything else if you have that six-figure savings or investments balance.

Final thoughts

I’m not ready to sign up for a new card just yet, but I expect 2021 will be an interesting year. If the COVID-19 vaccine rollout progresses well and the economy rebounds, there should be a lot of compelling credit card offers on the market.

Have a question about credit cards? E-mail me at ted.rossman@creditcards.com and I’d be happy to help.

Source: creditcards.com

What credit score is needed to buy a house?

At the beginning of any new year, the subject of homeownership often comes up. And after a year of remaining largely inside, you might even more inclined to take the plunge. And with interest rates at historic lows, you might be able to score great terms.

There are a lot of things to consider before you jump into the homeownership pool, but one thing you definitely want is a good credit score.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Steve a question.

What credit score is needed to buy a house?

In general terms, the bare minimum score required to get a mortgage is 500. But 500 is not a good score and often points to underlying problems in a person’s financial past. It could also be that a 500 score may simply be the result of a very thin file. While a loan might be available with a 500 credit score and at least 10% down, I suggest waiting until you have at least a 620 FICO score before attempting to buy a home.

See related: Can you get approved for a home loan with a credit score?

Scores of 620 to 640 are generally the accepted “minimum” score required for most types of loans. But, the lower the score, the worse the terms you will qualify for, and scores under 640 are not going to get you the best terms. This is true for any financial product, but especially mortgages.

Can you pay your mortgage with a credit card?

What credit scores do mortgage lenders use?

FICO scores aren’t the only credit scores, but they are the most common. And, they’re what most mortgage lenders will use to evaluate applications. But remember that FICO offers scores, depending on what lenders need. So the FICO score a credit card issuer uses will be different from the one a mortgage lender uses.

How to manage your credit when applying for a mortgage

I always recommend people give themselves six months to a year to get their credit in its best shape before shopping for a mortgage.

Check your credit 

Pull your credit reports from all three bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. Right now, you can access a free credit report from each bureau weekly. After April 2021, you will be able to access these free reports once a year.  Look over each report carefully and identify any errors or problems you see.

Correct any errors

If there are errors, work with the bureau to have them corrected. This may take weeks or months, or even longer in the case of identity theft.

Fix any problems

If you see any derogatory marks, you will need to correct them to get the best terms. Any past due items or items you may have in collections will pull your score down and could result in a much higher interest rate or even an outright denial. Most derogatory marks stay on your credit for seven years, but they will have less of an impact on your score over time – assuming you make payments on time and keep any bills out of collections.

Keep your debt low

If you’re hoping to get a mortgage soon, you’ll want to keep your debt as low as possible and pay off any existing balances because credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score.

Try not to open or close any accounts

Both opening and closing credit card accounts can lower your score. Usually, it’s only temporary, but when you’re looking for a mortgage, you want your score to be as good as possible. So unless you have a good reason to open or close an account, it’s best to wait.

Bottom line

Buying a house is one of the most important decisions you will make. Putting your best credit foot forward is vital to securing the best terms, which will likely be with you for years to come.

Remember to keep track of your score!

See related: Building a mortgage-worthy credit profile

Source: creditcards.com

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