A Different Way to Think About Travel Rewards

There are a lot of travel credit cards out there, and it’s easy to earn a lot of miles to get hundreds, even thousands of dollars in travel savings. But it’s easy to get really frustrated with miles. Seats may not be available on the days you want to travel. There may be surprise fees, or simply it takes too long to earn enough miles to get an award ticket.

Nothing free comes without work, but one of the biggest reasons you can get tripped up is not thinking about where you want to go first.

Asking “where do I want to go?” is the most important step in avoiding hassles with travel rewards.

Sure, almost every mile program says it can get you anywhere, but the best mile credit cards for getting to Florida can be very different than the best ones for getting to Paris.

Why?

Not all miles are created equal. Some airlines and mile programs are geared for domestic flyers, but are terrible for getting you enjoyable world travel. Others are really helpful for first class seats to Asia, but will take you much longer than other cards to earn a reward to Orlando.

How can you choose? Here are some tips:

1. Domestic travel:

Stay away from traditional airline miles. These miles are geared to people who want to save up a lot of miles for big international trips. So unless you have miles in an airline account to top up with a card, stick with a ‘no hassle’ bank points program like the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card (no fee, 1.5% back on all spend) or the Barclaycard Arrival (2% back on all spend). You can use your points on any flight at any time. Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America’s cards are also all good values for domestic flights if they fly where you want to go. With new airline fees popping up seemingly quite often, it can be nice to find ways to save like this!

2. Europe:

This is where the best traditional airline miles can shine. United MileagePlus is great for getting to Europe thanks to all of its partners including Lufthansa, Swiss, and Air Canada. You have a really good shot at getting an award ticket for 60,000 miles here. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a good option. It earns points you can transfer directly into your United miles account, but also gives you the option of transferring to other airlines like British Airways as well. If you’re after the big business class seat, American Airlines miles are the way to go, and consider a big bonus on the AAdvantage credit card to get you started.

3. Mexico, and the Caribbean:

Think no hassle points again here. It’s hard to get great value with traditional airline miles to beach destinations because so many people want rewards. The mileage prices to beach destinations are inflated and you’ll get bigger travel savings faster as a frequent spender via a bank points card like the Barclaycard Arrival, Capital One Venture Double Miles, or BankAmericard Travel Rewards.

4. Asia:

Tickets to Asia can be incredibly expensive, and you’ll want to save up traditional airline miles for these. American has some really good deals thanks to its partners Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. If you plan ahead it’s easy to get a seat for around 50,000 miles.

5. South America:

United miles are the best for places in the north part of South America like Peru and Colombia thanks to its partners Avianca and Copa. So consider a United credit card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred. To southern South America people traditionally consider American Airlines miles, but they are getting stingy with rewards down there. Consider United miles here as well.

6. Australia:

There’s no easier way to get to Australia than Qantas via American Airlines miles earned from an American Airlines credit card. Qantas has lots of flights with good availability at 75,000 miles roundtrip, which can save you almost $2,000 in typical airfare down there. If you insist on business class, be ready to pony up and look elsewhere. Delta is actually a better choice with its partner Virgin Australia out of Los Angeles for 160,000 miles.

As with all things mile and point related there are a lot of nuances. But these guidelines will get you pointed in the right direction and avoid the pitfall of earning the wrong miles for the job.

Are My Structured Settlements Safe? The Guide to Find the Answers

Structured settlements have grown immensely over the past couple of decades. Though it might come as a surprise for some, but structured settlements industry is more than a hundred billion dollar market on an annual basis, with at least 5 percent growth rate. The popularity enjoyed by these annuity settlements has been unsurpassed. There are many schemes and formats in which annuity payments can be structured. What’s common among all these annuity schemes is that these are funded by top rated insurance firms, and are treated as investment grade assets. This has gone a long way in making these structured settlements very safe financial bets. Irrespective of the going interest rates in the market or the swings observed by the financial markets on a month to month basis, the value of your structured settlements remains same. So, market risks are inherently taken care of in structured settlements. In this article, we try to find out more about the safety considerations you might have with structured settlements, and will exhibit how these annuity payments are the safest financial resources for anybody.

Legal provisions that strengthen structured settlements                     

The structured annuities’ market is heavily regulated, and strict checks are kept by the authorities on the working of life insurance companies that offer these settlements. Regulations regarding the quality and the type of the investments that a life insurance company can make are in place, and this makes annuity payments pretty risk free. Moreover, all life insurance companies that offer structured annuity payments are required to set aside a balance every time they issue an annuity, thus ensuring that despite the financial health of the company, it has enough in its kitty to meet the structured settlements’ obligations.

Safeguards in case of the bankruptcy of the insurance company              

Wouldn’t you want to know how the settlements will be met if the life insurance company offering the annuities goes bankrupt? In such a case, the possibility of whose happening itself is pretty miniscule, the state insurance commissioners help in rebuilding the capital structuring of the company, so that the obligations can be fulfilled. If restructuring of the company is not possible, then the company’s assets will be liquidated, and the policy holders’ obligations will be met first. So, even if the company goes badly bankrupt, you are likely to get the priority in terms of your outstanding payments being provided to you. With all these legal safeguards in place, you have all the reasons to assume that your structured settlements are among the safest assets you have. These annuities ensure that you keep on enjoying a steady inflow of money, with almost no risk to it in the long term. That said, it must also be mentioned that these structured settlements are theoretically not 100 percent risk free, and in the rarest of rare cases, could boil down to the policy holders losing out on about 40 percent of their outstanding payments.

The past two decades have seen massive improvements in terms of security of annuities. State governments have taken massive strides, and have out in place several rules towards ensuring that issuers of structured settlement annuities don’t face insolvency problems. The safeguarding of the annuitants has been a priority with regulator bodies, and several rules have been put into place to protect their interests in the rare case of insolvency of an issuer.

1. The accounting rules that are applicable on the issuers of annuities under structured settlement schemes have been tightened immensely. This ensures that the financial health of the issuer can never be distorted.

2. Risk based capital testing has been imposed on these firms.

3. The issuers of structured settlement annuities are expected to undergo annual audits which are mandatory as per regulations. These audits go a long way in bringing out any indicators of instability of the insurance firm.

4. There are no ambiguous regulations, and issuers of annuities are required to follow crystal clear guidelines in terms of maintaining the standards of their investments, as far as their security is concerned.

5. Minimum capital and requirements of surplus have been clearly laid out

6. The firms issuing structured settlements annuities are motivated to undergo independent reviews in order to strengthen their reputation.

7. Spontaneous audits are carried out in order to ensure that these firms carry out their operations in the expected manner.

Apart from all the aspects mentioned above, you might also be interested in knowing that structured settlements always prove to be totally risk free even when you want to sell them off. That is because all the structured settlement sales are routed through court approvals, and hence, there is absolutely no way you can be coerced into selling your structured settlements.

Easy ways to Earn Extra Cash in your Spare time

Besides discovering a small fortune down the back of the sofa or striking lucky on a horse race, we’d all like to earn a little extra money on a regular basis. Fortunately, there are many effective ways to do so, and none entail committing to a second or third job. Whether you’re a full-time parent or work flat out at the office, the following ways make it easy to generate extra funds and still fit it around your hectic lifestyle. 

Take part in online surveys

Opinions matter and online, it pays to offer up your own. Unlike spam ads and pop-up surveys online, legitimate opinion polls feature an average of 20 or more surveys per day on a wide range of subjects. Once signed up, users are rewarded for their participation either in the form of credit or the equivalent in vouchers that may be redeemed on online stores like Amazon. Many paid online surveys are also available in app form, making it even easier to earn an extra few quid on your lunch break or on a commute.

Become a freelancer

Because you set your own working hours, even the most high-powered of career men and women can embrace the freelance world. Popular sites such as Elance and Guru.com allow users to bid on individual jobs of interest as and when they please. Once successful, the job may last months or as little as 24 hours so it can suit just about any lifestyle. Freelance sites are always on the lookout for designers, writers and creative individuals for all manner of topics, so if you think you have the skills, apply and start earning extra income from your hidden talents.

Sort out your savings

A truly sensible, long-term means of making as much money as possible is to assess the terms of your savings account to ensure it is performing as well as it can be. Even if your current savings account has held you in good stead until now, there is always room for improvement. If you have had your current savings account for over a year, chances are that the interest rates are not the best ones that could be available to you. Find a savings plan that’s more appropriate to you this year and don’t settle for less. 

Another quick and easy way to generate a little extra is to consider selling your old jewelry or gold for cash. Stores across the country such as H&T Pawnbrokers are dedicated to providing a wide range of helpful services to meet the financial needs of their customers. Whether, you are in need of a loan, or simply wish to have your unwanted jewelry valued, people can provide you with the money you need, quickly.

Long-term Solution: Rethink your Finances for 2014 and Beyond

Some New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken within a matter of months, but when it comes to your finances, there are rarely any quick fixes that will serve you well in the long-term. Taking the time to form a strong and carefully considered financial plan is essential in helping to ground you against all that lies ahead; paying off a mortgage, expecting a baby, relocating for work and so on. Take the ultimate, decisive steps now for a future that will well and truly pay off, in more ways than one. 

Write an Investment Strategy

Many people put this off as something to do closer to retirement age and this is incredibly foolish. Crafting a personal investment plan not only helps you plan for a better retirement but prepare for and subsequently cut back on all expenditure leading up to it i.e. saving towards a mortgage down payment, investing in a family car or paying off debts within a set time frame.

Once you are satisfied and in agreement with your spouse or family about your investment plan, stick to it and make sure you do with the help of memos and self-actualizing exercises. Create a basic financial flowchart of your devised strategy, for example, and display it at home somewhere you will always look such as beside a kitchen calendar or on a notice board in the hallway. This way, you will be thinking about it regularly and you can keep yourself in check and notice areas in which your finances could be faltering.

Encourage others to plan with you

With the support of your spouse and close family, sit your children down and talk to them about the basics of money such as its origins, how it is used and how they can best put money of their own to use. If you instill in your children from a young age that being wise with money will permit them to be able to drive, become independent and feed their hobbies and interests, they will be motivated to save for their future and begin to have a more sensible attitude towards money.

In addition to being open and honest about money with your children, don’t forget to keep the lines of communication open with your parents on the subject. More people than ever before are finding themselves caring for their elderly parents in later life and this can prove to be an unexpected financial burden. Be sure to ask them as early as possible about what it is their retirement plan entails and their healthcare etc. – this will help you feel in control and far better prepared for such an eventuality, financially and otherwise.

If you wish to make financial changes for the future today, a good place to start is by seeking expert advice on your financial plan or investment strategy. Trusted companies such as Sanlam Private Investments regularly report on current financial trends and conduct studies and reports that reflect views on investment from various age groups in order to provide clients with the bigger picture – and perspective is one thing that a major financial decision really needs.

Structured Settlements Versus Litigation: Why is the Former Better?

Well, are you one of those who would prefer to give or take regular cash rather than a huge inflow or an outflow of funds? Then, structured settlements are the best option for you in case you are tied in one of those legal tussles around. A structured settlement is when the defendant agrees to give the plaintiff a regular amount of money paid in installments rather than a huge lump sum. These settlements are usually done in the presence of a certified financial planner and the plaintiff’s attorney.

Enjoy the convenience that comes along with structured settlements

The settlement gives you enhanced convenience which does not come with the legal cases. You can pay the amount in annual installments or even periodic lump sums once in 2 to 3 years. Also, the structured settlement reduces the risk for both the parties. This is perfect for the defendants who have the fear of financial liability. Also, you can save a lot on the legal expenses which would become redundant with structured settlements. Also, if you are on the receiving end of the structured settlement and are injured, these regular money in fixed intervals can come handy if you want to purchase any specific medical equipment or any other modified vehicles.

Get steady cash for a number of years if you are a plaintiff

Apart from the steady cash, you might be startled to know that these payments earn returns which are approximately double of the rates of Government or municipal bonds. Also, a significant benefit of such arrangement is tax avoidance. You can tax advantage both at the state as well as federal level. An important point to note here is that returns that are earned from the lump sum are subject to tax at both state and federal level.

Get enough time to arrange the money

If you are a defendant, then there is a huge advantage of not arranging the lump sum of money at one go. Even if you don’t have money, you still get a lot of time to arrange it. You can purchase annuities which guarantee regular payment which can be disbursed to the plaintiff.

Less risk of being duped by a conman

Now avoid the risk of getting duped by opportunistic or greedy people. Many senior people are usually the target of the meanest people in case they have huge amount of cash with them. Regular and small installments would keep them at bay as they would not be attracted to the huge amount of money that comes along with huge lump sum. A beneficiary also benefits from the structured settlements in a way that all the money doesn’t gets dissipated faster as might be the case of lump sum money. You can easily cater to your future needs with the regular money coming along with structured settlements. It is nice to receive and give a regular supply of money over a period of time and thus is highly beneficial for both the receiver and the giver.

Get Your Online Store on the Right Track with these Tried and Tested Simple Tips

Getting an online store off the ground and operating successfully may seem like a very overwhelming and daunting task at first. However, it is actually much easier to do than most people think. You should follow these five key steps in order to get it heading down the right track.

Simplicity is Essential

Fight against the natural inclination to make your online store more complicated than it has to be just because it might seem to be a complicated process. Once you fully understand and accept the fact that the process to create an online store and get it up and running is fairly simple, then you need to maintain that same mentality as you diligently put your store together. Do not worry about having a massive catalog of available products to sell at first, because you may not be ready to manage all of that yet, anyway. The best approach to take would be to start off small and then grow bigger over time.

Implement a New Strategy Each Week

As you continue to become more and more familiar with your online store over time, you will start to discover different features and upgrades that you can implement  within the overall design and structure to improve its performance and efficiency. Do not rush to use all of these features at first, because you will only be able to successfully overwhelm yourself by doing that. Instead, try to implement one new strategy each week; as you continue to master the basic fundamentals of running your online store.

For example, integrating social media platforms into your online store should be one of your first big goals. Studies have confirmed that the average website that is integrated with a social media platform, such as Facebook, can experience a 300 percent increase in referral traffic according to Search Engine Land. That type of traffic can truly do wonders for your conversion rate and sales overall.

Spread the Word as Much as Possible

Make it a professional mission and personal goal to tell as many people as you can about your online store. Not only will this allow you to start generating customers and sales, it will also give you the opportunity to obtain honest feedback about your online store from people that care about you; such as your family members and colleagues. Make sure that they know your online store is a work-in-progress and invite them to be as honest as possible, because their feedback will allow you to drastically improve the efficiency, quality, and performance of your online store in a relatively short period of time.

Do not forget to let your social media friends know about your online store, as well. Keep in mind that there are over 1.2 billion active Facebook fans around the world, according to CNET.com. Therefore, one of the best ways for you to maximize exposure for your business is going to be establishing an online presence within this social media powerhouse.

Become a Master of Customer Service

Along with having an efficient website and quality online store, you are also going to need to be able to support your online store with high-quality customer service. Your customers are going to have questions and concerns about a wide variety of different topics related to the products that you offer. You need to be able to find effective ways to keep them satisfied so that they will continue to come back to your online store in the future. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your online store will be able to handle all of these issues. At the end of the day, your customers are going to depend on you and your company more than they depend on your website.

Choosing the Registered Trademark That Is Right For Your Business

The first step taken by many company owners following the formation of their entity is to choose a registered trademark. This is not something to be chosen lightly, as the trademark will represent not only the owners, but also the products sold by a company.

Many company owners believe the process of choosing a trademark to be an easy one. In fact, it can be more of a challenge than expected, as a trademark must be able to be protected in addition to being marketable. To achieve these goals, the balance between a unique trademark and ease of that trademark’s management must be struck.

Brand Names – What to Consider Before You Choose One

In the United States, increased uniqueness with a distinct term is what makes it easier for companies to obtain exclusive rights as far as a registered trademark is concerned. The factor which influences the uniqueness of terms is called the “spectrum of distinctiveness”. This sliding scale runs the gamut from fanciful and arbitrary to generic.

The Descriptive Trademark

While it may be considered a weakness to the world of trademarks, choosing one that’s descriptive will result in the company owner having a much easier time to market it. This is because the descriptive trademark is just that; it describes the product being marketed. The descriptive trademark can be registered to a company if it can be proven that consumers are associating a single company with the registered trademark. However, the process of registering a descriptive trademark can become challenging should it be decided that secondary meaning must be established. This establishment occurs if the company owner is able to show extensive use and/or advertising of their trademark. If this cannot be accomplished, this can leave it open for competitors to use as they wish.

The Fanciful Trademark

“Fanciful” is defined as any term or phrase that has been coined, or in other words was devoid of meaning prior to becoming trademarked. An arbitrary trademark is usually an English word that’s considered to be common, but which doesn’t have a relationship with the service or product being sold by a company. The application of arbitrary to a trademark will be dependent on the context in which that trademark is being used. A type of fruit, for example becomes an arbitrary trademark when used to brand a computer company. However, when that fruit’s name is used by an actual fruit grower, the term becomes something descriptive.

Finding the Right Trademark

It can be a challenge to come up with a name that accurately describes your company while setting it apart from your competition. But there are actually many possibilities. For example, if a company owner is a fan of a particular era, they may wish to look to the terms used in that era, or the items of clothing worn by that era’s people. Or perhaps the company owners are fond of a painting by a particular artist. A beginning point can also be found by consulting the traits of certain animals. One common example of this is a dog’s loyalty.

Of course, a company owner can always choose to invent a brand name that’s completely new. However, the cost to educate a public not at all familiar with the trademark should be considered, as this can turn into a considerable expense.

Trademark Placement

Once a trademark has been established, it’s time to market it. This will involve placing the trademark on everything associated with the product or service, which can include advertising, literature, events sponsored by a company and other similar opportunities.

Licenses and Collateral

Once a trademark has become an established one, an owner can sell licenses to companies who may wish to sell the product or service. The revenue generated from the selling of licenses is added to the profit margin of a company. A trademark that’s considered valuable can even be used in cases where collateral must be secured prior to the granting of a loan.

One aspect of the trademark that many company owners aren’t aware of is that you only own a trademark as long as you’ve paid to register it. Usually, a trademark only needs to be registered every ten years on the anniversary date of the original trademark. But, as they say, time flies and a decade can go by very quickly, causing a business owner to forget to re-register. The good news is that a grace period of one year exists for business owners to re-register their trademark. However, during that year, another business owner can apply for it.

Tips for Selling Your Structured Settlement

settlementYou’d think that a structured settlement would alleviate your immediate need for cash, but that’s often not the case. Settlements are put into a structured payment format to protect you from yourself (from unwise spending and poor money management), but many times the need for cash is genuine and extreme. Perhaps you’ve accrued new medical bills because of the injuries you sustained. Maybe you need to make modifications to your home to provide better access and comfort due to being in a wheelchair now. Maybe you’ve lost too much pay from work to keep current with your bills. In all of these instances and many others, selling your structured settlement is a wise decision. How do you do that? Follow these tips.

Don’t Go It Alone

The first and most important tip is not to try this on your own. Selling your structured settlement is more complex than you might realize, and you’ll need expert help and guidance along the way. Make sure that you have that help. Work with a company dedicated to connecting structured settlement sellers with qualified buyers. Not that word, “qualified”. Not just any buyer will do. You need a reputable buyer that’s willing to take a lower discount on your settlement so you get more out of the sale.

Let Someone Else Do the Legwork

Finding qualified buyers is a lot of work. If you partner with a company dedicated to helping you find the best deal possible, you eliminate a ton of stress and hassle. Let someone else do all the legwork, ask all the important questions and create a list of potential buyers. With the right partner, you should only have to fill in a brief form and then wait for offers to come through from qualified buyers. Then, you only need to choose the buyer’s offer that best matches your needs.

As a note, make sure that the company you’re working with is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and offers full 128-bit encryption of their website. Anything less is just putting yourself at needless risk.

Is Your Need Genuine?

You will have to go back to court to sell your structured settlement. One of the first things the judge will look at is whether or not you actually have a financial need in your life that the sale of your settlement will benefit. If you are suffering financially, but that suffering is due to personal decisions or a lack of employment with no actual effort to find a job, you can bet the judge is going to block the sale and you’ll be stuck with your regular payments. Build the strongest case possible before you do anything.

If you follow these brief steps, you’ll find that you have an easier time of selling your structured settlement. While there is no way to guarantee that the judge will allow your sale, getting off on the right foot will make the process less stressful and certainly improve the chances of a beneficial ruling.

10 Perks of the Job to Motivate Your Office Staff

office_perksFrom comfortable chairs to organic roof gardens, the perks of today’s coolest urban offices range from typical to extraordinary. Motivate your workforce using these 10 creative and effective office perks, courtesy of London Offices.

1. Fresh, energizing coffee

Who says stimulants aren’t effective? Today’s fast-paced workplaces need alert and motivated staff, and fresh espresso is the ultimate formula for making sure that your team is working at its best.

2. An open, spacious office

Open spaces inspire productivity and creativity. Tear down traditional dividers and refocus your office around collaboration and openness. Your staff, and your income, will thank you.

3. Health club memberships

Healthy staff are productive staff, and nothing’s better for improving your health than consistent exercise. Reward your employees with a health club membership and they’ll reward you with increase productivity and strengthened morale.

4. Natural, healthy lighting

Natural light has a huge positive effect on productivity, giving workers more energy and alertness throughout the day. Open your blinds and switch off artificial lights for a more productive, efficient office.

5. A well-stocked office fridge

From microwaveable meals to healthy drinks, keeping your office fridge filled with nutritious food – plus the occasional can of soda – is a great way to keep your staff satiated and productive.

6. Comfortable, supportive chairs

Make bad posture a thing of the past. Supportive chairs give your employees more energy and prevent common back and neck problems from developing over time.

7. Free public transportation

Is your office located near a train or bus station? Encourage your employees to leave their cars at home and commute to work using public transportation by giving them free prepaid transport cards.

8. In-house office catering

Go above and beyond the typical vending machine with your own cafeteria. Hiring a chef is surprisingly affordable, particularly for large companies with lots of mouths to feed during the workday.

9. A relaxing office garden

Give your employees a quiet, relaxed space where they can unwind. Rooftop gardens are inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and excellent for letting your staff escape the pressures and deadlines of the workplace.

10. Relaxing, productive lounges

Lounges are for more than just executive meetings. Buy some comfortable sofas and give your employees a place to relax, unwind, and chat. You might even find some of your workers moving into the lounge to focus on their latest assignment.