• 6 things to check before buying health insurance

    Health insurance is one of the best ways to be prepared for unexpected health emergencies and expenses. Although the jargon and technicalities may seem confusing at times, it is important to prepare yourself mentally and read through all terms before making a big decision, such as finalizing your insurance provider and agreeing to their conditions. To make this process easier for you, here are six things you must know before buying health insurance:

    Waiting period
    The waiting period is the time where one cannot raise a claim against the health insurance plan. Generally, insurance providers have a 30-day waiting period, during which they may not accept claims. This period may be even longer for pre-existing conditions, maternity benefits, and certain other ailments, and will differ from company to company.

    Coinsurance and copay
    Coinsurance is the percentage of the claim that is borne by the policyholder. Copay is a flat fee paid every time you receive a health care service. When shopping for health insurance, it is important to find the right percentage of premium and coverage, as a lower monthly premium could mean higher out-of-pocket costs, and vice versa. Checking these details and choosing a policy carefully could significantly lower your healthcare costs over time.

    Summary of benefits
    Visit your insurance provider’s website for details about their various plans and the services they cover. Compare these benefits with other plans to find the right one for you and your family. You may find key differences in plans in areas like physical therapy, fertility treatments, and mental healthcare, so be sure to factor this in when making a decision.

    Your family’s healthcare needs
    Consider the amount and type of treatment you and your family members have received over the past. Some of these conditions may require regular intervention, making them a recurring expense. Weigh these needs against the list of benefits offered by your insurance provider. This may help you make a more informed decision, and reduce your bills in the future.

    Health Plan Networks
    When looking for a new health insurance plan, it is key to look for one with a larger network. This is because there is a significant difference in costs when one goes to an within-network provider, as opposed to one outside the network, as the insurance agency has already negotiated lower prices. If you already have a doctor you would like to continue seeing, ask them if they accept your new insurance plan.

    Opting for a plan with a larger directory will give you more flexibility and more options to choose from, and switch between doctors if needed. Avoid opting for healthcare plans that do not have any local in-network doctors.

    Comparing available insurance plans
    Generally, there are four managed healthcare plan types to choose from – Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO), and Point of Service Plan (POS). The main differences between these plans lie in their network coverage, requirement of referrals, and the cost.

    You have the least amount of flexibility here, and must choose between in-network providers, except for emergencies. It generally requires referrals and has low out-of-pocket costs.


    While there is more flexibility with these plans, staying within the network leads to lower treatment costs. Out-of-pocket expenses for such plans are generally high.

    With an EPO plan, you can directly choose between the in-network providers, without having to work with a primary care physician. Out-of-pocket expenses for these services are lower than PPO.

    With a POS plan, you are required to visit a primary care physician and get a referral from them, before you can visit a specialist. Although referrals are mandatory, this allows you to have access to more provider options, and a primary care physician to navigate all your healthcare needs.

    How to choose your health insurance policy?
    When buying health insurance, the federal health insurance ‘Medicare’ is perhaps the most popular option. It has two coverage options: Traditional Medicare (Part A and Part B, and Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C). Those looking for additional coverage may also opt in for Medigap.

    Part A of this insurance plan covers inpatient care in a hospital, skilled nursing facility care, nursing home care, hospice care, and home health care. Part B covers necessary, as well as preventive services like clinical research, ambulance services, durable equipment, in-patient care, outpatient care and partial hospitalization for mental health services, and limited outpatient prescriptions. These plans require the payment of a deductible and coinsurance, which is usually 20% of the cost of the approved service.

    Part C or Medicare Advantage is rolled out by a private company and may offer extra benefits like vision, hearing, and dental services. It also sets a limit on what you will have to pay out of pocket each year for covered services, making it a more attractive option for many.

    Anyone can join these plans during these enrollment periods.

    Initial Enrollment Period
    You can join a plan when you first become eligible for it.

    Open Enrollment Period
    You can join, switch, or drop a plan between October 15 – December 7 each year. Coverage for the new plan begins on January 1.

    Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period
    Those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan may choose to switch to another, or go back to the Original Medicare Plan between January 1 – March 31 every year.

  • 11 common credit card mistakes to avoid

    A credit card allows one to make purchases and pay later to the bank or lending institute covering immediate costs. Many variables, including salary and debt, come into play when applying for a credit card. But credit cards come with some terms and conditions, and using them carelessly or defaulting on repayments may lead to a bad credit score. Therefore, here are some common credit card mistakes one can avoid.

    Not reviewing billing statements
    Before making credit card payments, one’s advised to run through the billing statements. Confirming the accuracy of the transactions on one’s billing cycle can help detect fraudulent transactions. One can review the statement monthly and report to the bank or the financial institution in case of any suspicious activities.

    Credit cards are convenient and can make one rely too much on them while shopping. One must remember that when one uses a credit card, one borrows from a financial institution that charges interest on the amount. It’s a type of loan that one is required to repay as per the terms. Losing track of where the money goes is a common mistake cardholders make. This allows the payments to be settled in full within the same billing cycle to avoid overspending.

    Making only minimal necessary payments
    One may prevent late fees and penalties by paying only the minimum monthly amount, ensuring good standing. But continuing to do so for months can lead to payment delays and accrued interest, which in the long run can pile up. The best way to avoid this is to create a payment plan and manage monthly finances. This will allow one to make timely payments and avoid piling up on more payment obligations.

    Ignoring introductory 0% APR offers
    Some credit card issuers offer introductory 0% APR deals. An Annual Percentage Rate (APR) deal offers the cardholder no interest on new purchases or debt transfers for a predetermined period. Using this deal can help one to save significantly on bigger purchases. Since these deals are usually offered to new cardholders, one may miss out on excellent savings by simply being unaware of them. One can find out the start and end date of the initial 0% APR deal and its conditions before opting for it.

    Missing a payment
    FICO estimates that one’s credit card score dips by 17 to 83 points if one misses a payment for 30 days. Missing payments for 90 days or more can lead to one’s score decreasing by 27 to 133 points. Late payments add on the interest charge and significantly affect one’s credit score, which is detrimental to one’s financial standing in the long run. One way of dealing with this is to automate the regular monthly bills or set reminders a couple of days before the due date.

    Carrying a balance
    Carrying a small balance from month to month instead of paying everything off does not necessarily give one’s credit score a boost. Any revolving debt may accrue interest. To reduce the negative impact that high balances might have on one’s credit score, borrowers are advised to maintain their revolving debt below 30% of their available credit.

    Taking cash advances
    A cash advance is a cash withdrawal from one’s credit card account. Borrowing money from one’s credit card comes with fees and withdrawal restrictions. While this is a useful credit card feature in emergencies, it’s best to avoid cash advances for ordinary purchases. Unlike credit on one’s card, cash advances accrue interest right after withdrawal. So, in addition to the hefty interest, one is also likely to pay a withdrawal charge or fees. Overall, cash advances are costly affairs. One can instead consider a personal loan, borrowing from family or friends, collateral loan, or salary advance.

    Applying for too many credit cards too quickly
    Each time one applies for a new credit card, one faces a hard inquiry into one’s credit history. Lenders who see multiple credit card requests can view a cardholder as risky and deny future applications. It’s best to keep a gap of at least six months before applying for a new credit card.

    Adding on to the late fees
    If one expects a late payment, one’s advised to contact the credit card company immediately. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently stated that a late fee might cost up to $30 the first time and up to $41 afterward. Sometimes, the financial institution may alter one’s due date or offer financial hardship programs. Opting for a debt management plan can eliminate fees or reduce interest rates for a short while.

    Maxing out the credit card
    Using up all of the allotted credit can lower one’s credit score. The credit rate is influenced by the credit usage rate, which is the number of times one uses a credit card. One can contact the issuer and get a credit boost if one routinely maxes out the credit limit but has no defaulting history.

    Closing a credit card
    The average credit history of a cardholder is impacted when one closes a credit card. Closing the oldest card can drop one’s credit age by the number of years between the oldest and the second oldest card. That said, one can close a credit card under some valid circumstances. For example, if one sees that the card’s advantages don’t justify the annual fees of a credit card, it’s best to forgo the card and opt for a more beneficial one.

  • Factors to consider while choosing a Medicare plan

    Choosing a health insurance plan and the provider is complicated, as the industry is saturated with many options. Therefore, it is essential to conduct extensive research to find the best Medicare Advantage plan. Also, a clear understanding of the requirements makes it easier to narrow down the options. For some, the importance lies with the network of doctors under the insurance provider; for others, it might be the cost and procedure coverage the plan promises.

    The deductibles and premium costs associated with the plan can impact your decision. So while you are at it, find out different cost-related aspects like out-of-pocket expenses, yearly coverage limits, deductibles, and copayments, all of which could affect your financials.

    Medicare plans cover expenses made in the doctor’s office, hospitals, and health care centers. The main medicare coverage is done under Part A or Part B. However, if you have a medicare advantage plan, you stand to gain more. These plans provide all the coverage an original Medicare plan will provide, along with additional coverage options. Some plans might even offer coverage for dental, vision, and hearing treatments. 

    Are you planning to sign up for a prescription plan? Or do you already have an existing prescription coverage plan available? Does your insurer levy a fine to join a subscription plan at a later stage? Make sure you get the answers to these questions, as they are crucial to avoid any discrepancies or arguments in the future. If you are ever put on a prescription treatment plan, you might need your Medicare plan to provide some coverage, if not in full. 

    Choice of doctor
    Another thing you want to take a look at when opting for Medicare plans is the in-network doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare centers and services. You will also want to check whether your doctors are covered under the Medicare plan. However, some Medicare Advantage plans offer certain out-of-network coverage options too. 

    One of the top Medicare providers in the country is Humana. The company offers a variety of healthcare plans with different price points that help users decide upon a plan based on their specific needs and budget. The company covers Private Fee-For-Service (PFFS), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Special Needs Plan (SNP) plans, and others that come with or without prescription coverage. 

    Two of its notable Medicare Advantage plans are:

    HumanaChoice PPO
    With zero monthly premium and out-of-pocket expense coverage of up to $4,900, this plan is an excellent choice for you looking to add to your existing Medicare plans and for new insurance seekers alike. It covers vision and dental and may even include prescription treatments. Another benefit of the plan is the SilverSneakers® Fitness Program, a service the insurer provides at no additional charges.

    Humana Honor PPO
    This plan is designed in order to benefit the veterans. However, people that meet the plan’s eligibility criteria can also sign up for it. It provides annual out-of-pocket coverage of $6,700 with no monthly premium. The copay coverage is provided for doctor and specialist visits aside from hospital stays. The plan cover eye and dental treatment. It also gives you access to their SilverSneaker® Fitness Program and might provide free transportation for your doctor’s visit. 

  • 4 services Medicare does not cover

    Medicare is a health insurance program issued by the government. The program covers people aged 65 or older, certain people with disabilities, and patients with end-stage renal diseases. It encompasses several plans and is divided into four parts with certain services – A, B, C, and D. Out of these, Part A is free for those who’ve paid Medicare taxes for at least ten years, but the others have to pay a premium.

    Even though the program is helpful for many, some Medicare plans are complicated in terms of coverage. This makes it difficult to understand. They might cover various aspects of health care, but many conditions are not covered as well, some of which include:

    Dental care
    Medicare plans may cover basic health care services and X-rays, but they have a limit of $1,500 annually. Medicare plans may not cover routine dental checkups and treatment of certain dental services. They also do not cover dentures and fillings. However, in the case of emergency hospitalization, patients can use Part A to pay off certain dental services.

    Long-term hospitalization
    Usually, all Medicare plans cover up to 90 days of hospitalization. The benefit period begins on the first inpatient day at a hospital or nursing facility and ends when inpatient care isn’t received for more than 60 days. Furthermore, if the patient suffers two or more accidents within 60 days, the Medicare plans cover the cost for only one of them.

    Cosmetic surgeries
    Original Medicare plans do not cover the costs of cosmetic surgeries. However, if it is due to a deformity or injury, the patient can use Medicare plans to pay for certain health care services such as artificial limbs, artificial eyes, and replacement parts. Furthermore, breast cancer survivors can also employ Medicare to pay for a post-mastectomy breast prosthesis.

    Health care received while overseas
    In most cases, original Medicare plans do not include health care expenses incurred outside the country. However, the expenses can be paid for in rare and specific circumstances, which include the unavailability of the nearest US hospital close to the borders. In addition, certain plans may also cover healthcare services received on a ship in US territorial waters.

    Medicare Advantage plans offered by private healthcare insurance companies cover the exclusions from parts A and B of Original Medicare. Some common examples of such plans are Health Maintenance Organization, preferred Provider Organization, Private Fee-For-Service Plans, and Special Needs Plans. For example, United Healthcare offers Part C Medicare Advantage with $0 copays, dental benefits, prescriptions, vision benefits, hearing benefits, and exclusive OTC credits. All private insurance providers who offer such plans with Original Part A and B benefits must follow the rules set by Medicare.

  • 5 trusted websites to make money online

    Making money online has never been easier! The ever-expanding online world is swamped with legit opportunities that’ll help add some extra bucks to your bank from the comfort of your home. And, the best part is that you don’t always need to have certain skills or qualifications to earn money. Don’t believe us? We’ve compiled a list of trustworthy websites that can help you make money online. Try them!

    If you have a hard time trusting online survey sites, you likely haven’t tried Swagbucks. It is one of the most popular and legitimate websites that will pay you for everything from filling out surveys to watching videos to shopping online. You will receive your earnings in the form of gift cards from top retailers like Amazon and Walmart or cash back from PayPal.

    Interested in taking up some freelance work? Consider creating an account on Upwork. It’s the world’s largest online marketplace to find great clients and grow your independent career. Regardless of what skill you have, be it writing, video editing, software development, graphic designing, or marketing, you can find work in no time.

    If you’re looking for motivation to clean up your closet, then check out ThredUp. You can sell items you no longer wear or need for cash, such as jeans, shorts, tops, dresses, swimwear, shoes, handbags, and backpacks. Another great thing is that there is no shipping fee for sending them your package. Keep in mind that you will receive the payment only if your items are accepted.

    Most of us have electronic waste lying around the house. So, why not make some money by selling them out? With Gazelle, you can trade your old Samsung, Pixel, OnePlus, iPhone, or any other phone, and even iPads and tablets for money. They will also cover your shipping costs. Gazelle pays via check, or they send you Amazon gift cards. Also, you can request a cash transfer to your PayPal account.

    As the name suggests, Skillshare is where you share your skills and get paid for them. All you have to do is make quality videos on your topic of interest like crafts, film, fashion, cooking, or anything else you love to do. The platform will then compensate you for every minute of your video watched by their Premium students. The best teachers on Skillshare make more than $100,000 a year.

  • 4 apps you can use as a side hustle to earn quick cash

    Earning a few quick bucks apart from your primary source of income is always helpful. Whether for selling used items or a side hustle, the internet is brimming with websites and apps that let you make money. However, many of these are not as legitimate as they appear. So, if you want to earn cash with apps, here are the best options.

    This app has an A rating with Better Business Bureau and more than 10 million active users worldwide. It is one of the best apps that lets you earn cash quickly. Swagbucks offers $10 to new users as a welcome bonus. Besides, it is easy to use; all you need to do is watch videos, play games, or take part in search surveys, and the company will deposit the amount in your PayPal account. Swagbucks also gives you the option to redeem the money and use it as a gift card on shopping websites.

    If you are an avid shopper and want to earn cash with apps, Dosh is one of the best options for you. Available on both Android and iOS, Dosh lets you make money every time you use your card for shopping online or at walk-in stores. The amount keeps getting deposited in your “Dosh Wallet.” Then once you have earned $25, the app lets you withdraw the money. In addition, the company has tie-ups with major brands and merchants that offer you cashback if you purchase stuff through Dosh. Plus, you get $5 by simply linking your card with the app.

    HealthyWage is a unique app that motivates you to earn cash by losing weight. It lets you set weight loss goals and rewards you with money accordingly. For instance, its 10% challenge requires you to shed 10% of your body weight in six months in exchange for around $300. However, note that you will be required to verify your weight with your doctor, gym, or any other outlet that partners with the app.

    If you are looking to earn cash for decluttering your living space, apps like Decluttr are for you. The app lets you sell used DVDs, Blu-rays, videogames, and other household electronics quickly. All you have to do is scan the item on your phone, and Decluttr will make an instant offer. Once you accept the offer, you will be required to print a pre-paid label and send the goods. You can drop them off at the nearest UPS store or any other authorized dealer outlet.

  • A 3-step guide to selling a timeshare

    A timeshare is shared ownership of a property, wherein multiple individuals own a “share” of a particular home or property in return for its access for a stipulated period, typically once a year. Investors may sometimes wish to sell their timeshare for various reasons, like the inability to pay for travel or illness. If you want a release from your timeshare ownership, you must consider a few things to sell it fast and safe.

    1. Determine the value
    Owning a timeshare means you have essentially paid for a set number of vacation days upfront. A timeshare’s value decreases over time, unlike real estate, so it should not be purchased as an investment. Additionally, you need to have realistic expectations while reselling it. It is quite likely that the resale value will be lower than the price you paid while originally buying the timeshare. Some owners simply return their timeshares to the property managers without asking for any money, but if you wish to get back at least something, you can determine the value of a timeshare by researching the resort it is located in and checking the prices of similar timeshares currently up for sale. The valuation depends on the location, maintenance, and how long you have owned it.

    2. Pay the maintenance
    Ensure that you pay the maintenance fees before listing your timeshare for resale. This is important if you’re wondering how to sell a timeshare fast, as it prevents repossession and gives your timeshare value.

    3. Choose a selling option
    One of the most reliable ways to sell a timeshare is to contact the property manager and ask for their help. Another option is to run advertisements in the real estate or travel section of a local newspaper. You can also list your timeshare on websites like Craigslist, RedWeek, Timeshare Users Group, or eBay.
    Another option is to rope in a professional resale agent to help you sell your timeshare. Selling your timeshare through agents should not cost anything. If resale companies or agents ask for a large sum of money upfront, it is a red flag. When hiring a resale agent, make sure to check with the American Resort Development Association to avoid scammers.
    Many “timeshare cancellation companies” claim that they can get your timeshare contract canceled, but these contracts cannot be canceled unless you are in your rescission period.

  • 4 reasons for mortgage refinancing

    If mortgage refinancing (mtg refi) rates today are low, many homeowners will rush to refinance their mortgages. It is quite appealing to opt for mortgage refinancing when one can secure a lower rate. This often helps in lowering monthly payments. In addition, refinancing helps pay off the mortgage quicker; some even cash out the equity on their home.

    Here are few reasons why one should consider mortgage refinancing:

    Get a lower interest rate
    If mtg refi rates are low, getting a mortgage refinancing makes complete sense. This is because the interest rate on the existing mortgage will get lower. There can be a saving of nearly 1 to 2 percent. With lower interest rates through refinancing, one can save money. Moreover, there will be an increase in the rate of building equity on the house. In addition, monthly payments will become lower. It is usually recommended to opt for refinancing when the interest rate can be lowered by a minimum of 2 percent.

    Reduce the loan term
    Whenever mtg refi rates fall, homeowners can take the opportunity to get a shorter loan term on an existing loan. However, there won’t be much change in the monthly payments in such cases. The repayment term almost reduces by half, with any change to the monthly payment amount. In some cases, the monthly payment might rise slightly. So, it is important to do the due diligence before opting for mortgage refinancing.

    Convert Fixed-rate or ARM
    In most cases, adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) offer lower rates compared to fixed-rate mortgages. However, if there are periodic adjustments, the rate for an ARM may be more. In such cases, it is beneficial to convert to a fixed-rate mortgage with lower interest rates. This will help in securing against future hikes in the rates. On the other hand, for homeowners who do not plan to stay in their current homes and want to quickly pay off the monthly payments, converting a fixed rate to ARM is beneficial. This is useful if the mtg refi rates for ARM are falling.

    Get some quick equity
    No matter what the mtg refi rates are today, refinancing a mortgage can be risky. Hence, homeowners must have a solid reason to want to go the refinancing way. For many, a major emergency expense often requires them to tap into the equity of their homes. In such cases, mortgage refinancing can be a sound decision. College education, home remodeling, or medical emergency are some of the reasons why some prefer to refinance their mortgage.