How the New Tax Law Affects Vacation Home Rentals

The new tax law that took effect in January includes several changes that have a significant impact on owners of second homes, including vacation homes. It’s a good idea for current owners and those who are thinking of buying a second home to familiarize themselves with the new law now. It’s not too soon to plan for your 2018 tax returns.

The news isn’t so good for families that don’t rent out their vacation homes because they probably won’t be able to deduct as much as they have in the past. However, those who use their second homes only or mostly for the rental income may do better than they did under the old law.

A luxury home sitting on a lake shore.A luxury home sitting on a lake shore.

Deducting state taxes

The new law limits the total amount of state and local taxes you can deduct to $10,000 on a joint return for single and joint returns. The new limit covers sales, occupancy, income and property taxes, including taxes paid at closing on a new property. If you own a primary and secondary home, you will almost certainly exceed this limit. You will be able to deduct less-perhaps a lot less in property taxes than you did last year. The new limit on state tax deductibility will affect homeowners in high tax states more than others.

Mortgage interest deduction

Despite attempts to eliminate or seriously reduce its value to homeowners, the deduction for mortgage interest survived largely intact in the new law. The most significant change was the lowering of the limit on total amount of the cost of mortgage debt for all homes owned by a taxpayer.

The new law “grandfathers in” or exempts mortgage interest on homes purchased before December 15, 2017. Homes purchased after that date will come under the new lower limit for the mortgage interest deduction. Thus, homeowners who already owe $750,000 or more in mortgage debt and buy a second home this year, they can’t deduct any of the mortgage interest incurred in the new purchase.

The new law increased the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint returns. Because of the changes in the deductibility of state property taxes and mortgage interest, homeowners who have little or no mortgage interest and buy a moderately priced second home this year on which they pay less than 12 months of mortgage interest may find that they are better off taking the standard deduction on their 2018 taxes.

Incentives to become a landlord

For owners who want to use their second homes only for the use of their family and friends and not to rent out, the new tax law will create a disincentive to buy a home. For those who plan to rent out their property, if only for a few weeks during the year, the new law may be a boon.

Most landlords “pass-through” rental income so that it’s taxed as personal income. According to the Nolo website, if the rental activity qualifies as a business for tax purposes, as most do, you may be eligible to deduct an amount equal to 20 percent of the net rental income. If you qualify for this deduction, you’ll effectively be taxed on only 80 percent of your rental income.

Second, rental properties (even a vacation home used by the owner for several weeks a year), may not fall under the limits on deducting state taxes and the cap on mortgage interest.

Friendly realtor or landlord talking showing modern luxury house for sale to young couple customers, real estate agent discussing rental home with renters tenants, planning property purchase concept.Friendly realtor or landlord talking showing modern luxury house for sale to young couple customers, real estate agent discussing rental home with renters tenants, planning property purchase concept.

“On a rental property, you could have a mortgage of $10 million and deduct the full amount of the interest. If the property is part rental and part residence, you can deduct the mortgage interest without limitation for the period of time that it’s a rental property — provided it rented for 15 or more days,” said Robert Gilman, a partner at New York-based accounting firm Anchin, Block, & Anchin LLP recently featured in the Wall Street Journal.

If so, an owner of a vacation home that’s rented out for two weeks or more can write off on a pro-rated basis all mortgage interest and state taxes along with all other operating expenses incurred by owning and renting the property, including maintenance, advertising, and repairs.

According to Stephen Fishman on the Nolo site, “Thus, the portion of a rental host’s mortgage interest and property tax allocated to the short-term rental activity don’t come within the limits. These are rental deductions, not personal itemized deductions.”

Finally, the new tax law includes a new tax deduction for individuals who earn income from businesses owned individually or by pass-through entities like limited-liability companies or partnerships.

Family of four on wooden jetty by the ocean.Family of four on wooden jetty by the ocean.

“During 2018 through 2022, hosts will be able to use 100% bonus depreciation to write off in a single year the full cost of long-term personal property they use for their rental business. Bonus depreciation may now be used for both new and used personal property. It may not be used for real property,” writes Fishman.

Some economists forecast a drop in demand for vacation properties as a result of changes in the tax treatment of vacation homes. However, demand has remained strong in most of the nation’s vacation destinations.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.

Source: homes.com

10 Things to Know about the Chicago Metro Area

Chicago has always been a highly sought-after tourist destination and a booming metropolitan area. The city is well-known for its industrial antiquity, from being a meat-packing haven to its world-renowned architecture. While you may know some cool facts about the ‘Windy City’ – Al Capone comes to mind – there’s a lot to love about the Chicago Metro Area. Here are 10 things you need to know about Chicago if you plan on making this ‘Prairie State’ region your next home.

A map highlighting the Chicago Metro Area including Chicago, Elgin and Naperville, IL.A map highlighting the Chicago Metro Area including Chicago, Elgin and Naperville, IL.

The City of Chicago, itself, is the major seat in the metro. Nestled on Lake Michigan, the city is nicknamed the ‘Windy City’ for its icy, cold winters. If you’re a lover of the snow, you’re in luck! Winters in Chicago bring, on average, about 21 snowy days. For those who prefer more moderate temperatures, summertime in the city is beautiful as the high averages 90 degrees at its hottest peak. In the early days of its history, Chicago was one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, this was due in part from the American Industrial Revolution that solidified the city as a manufacturing, retail, and finance epicenter. In addition, steel and meat-packing were major industries that attracted factory workers to this waterfront region. For families, the economic advancements in the city made for great potential for getting ahead and today, people from all over still flourish here.

  • Average home Price in Chicago – $218,000
  • Best neighborhood in Chicago – West Loop and Hyde Park
  • Biggest employer in Chicago – U.S. Government and Chicago Public Schools

Things to do in Chicago

  • Chicago Riverwalk and Navy Pier
  • Visit Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower)
  • Visit Millennium Park
  • Have a slice of famous Chicago-style deep dish pizza at Giordano’s

This Chicago suburb is one of the safest cities in the nation. Naperville also has a great school district and the unemployment rate is low, making it a great city for families. On a good day, the commute from Naperville to Chicago can range from half an hour (by bus) to over an hour (by car, factor in traffic). If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Naperville has plenty of nature reserves and parks, perfect for an afternoon on the lake! There’s also the Centennial Beach, the Naper Settlement, and the Naperville Historic District.

  • Average home price in Naperville – $392,200
  • Best neighborhood in Naperville – Acorn Hill Estates
  • Biggest employer in Naperville – Edward Hospital and Health Services

Things to do in Naperville

  • Walking tours of the Naperville Historic Distric
  • Food tours
  • Visit Cantigny Park
  • Visit the Morton Arboretum
  • Have lunch at the White Chocolate Grill

With a booming housing market and local economy, the City of Elgin is a thriving Chicago suburb that boasts of many amazing characteristics that appeal to its residents and visitors, alike. If you’re looking for the arts and recreation of the big city, but you don’t want to necessarily live in the big city, then you have a winner! Elgin has its own Symphony Orchestra, Riverboat Casino, and Community College (which hosts special performances throughout the year). The city also prides itself with an amazing school district and its Elgin Academy. Elgin is just a little over an hour from Chicago.

  • Average home price in Elgin – $182,800
  • Best neighborhood in Elgin – Almora
  • Biggest employer in Elgin – Sherman Hospital

Things to do in Elgin


Mahogany is a Content Marketing Coordinator for Homes.com. In her spare time, Mahogany enjoys reading, writing poetry, blogging, traveling, and loves a good southern idiom. Mahogany is also a certified Reiki practitioner and enjoys all things supernatural.

Source: homes.com

Best Cities for Veterans to Live in

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Our partners at Veterans United have compiled the top cities in the country for veterans to live in. This new data ranks cities based on factors like veteran income growth, unemployment rates, and housing affordability. Here at Homes.com, we have taken a look at the top five cities that made the list below.

View of a veteran saluting the flag of the United States.View of a veteran saluting the flag of the United States.
  1. San Antonio, Texas

    San Antonio is home to three military bases: Fort Sam Houston, Lackland AFB, and Randolph AFB, so its no wonder the city knows just how to take care of its veterans. The city has a low civilian (7.0 percent) and veteran (5.7 percent) unemployment rates. In addition, San Antonio boasts a 7.5 percent veteran population as well as a healthy economy with lots of businesses owned by veterans (8.2 per 1,000 veterans).

  2. Lincoln, Nebraska

    Lincoln, Nebraska is a scenic, booming town for veterans to live in. The housing affordability is above the national average and the veteran income growth from 2017 is more than seven percent. Lincoln also has three higher education facilities approved for Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits.

    Fall Color Orange Tree Leaves Nebraska State Capital.Fall Color Orange Tree Leaves Nebraska State Capital.
  3. Arlington, Texas

    The Lone Star State has made the list twice. Arlington, Texas has a veteran unemployment rate of just five percent and veteran income growth has been more than two percent since 2012. That number is rising as the city has had over 13 percent job growth rate over the last five years. The housing affordability in Arlington is well above average and the median veteran income adjusted for local cost of living is at 33.6 percent, above the national average.

  4. Raleigh, North Carolina

    Raleigh is located in North Carolina’s Historic Research Triangle, an area with top of the line hospitals, research schools, and tech businesses. The city is relatively affordable and veterans are can expect a good quality of life here. There are eight veteran-owned businesses for every 1,000 veterans, veterans have access to eight higher education facilities that accept VA benefits, and only six percent of veterans are living below the poverty line (a number that is hopefully decreasing as the veteran workforce has grown 1.3 percent since 2012.)

  5. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    Oklahoma City, or OKC, has also made the top five on this list. Veteran job growth has seen a whopping 7.1 percent increase since 2012. The veteran unemployment rate is at 4.3 percent and the civilian unemployment rate is at 5.5 percent. There are also more than 10 veteran-owned businesses per 1,000 veterans.

Skyline of Downtown Oklahoma City during twilightSkyline of Downtown Oklahoma City during twilight

For the full list of cities that are most desirable for veterans, head on over to Veterans United. Happy Veterans Day!

Mahogany is a Content Marketing Coordinator for Homes.com. In her spare time, Mahogany enjoys reading, writing poetry, blogging, traveling, and loves a good southern idiom. Mahogany is also a certified Reiki practitioner and enjoys all things supernatural.

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Source: homes.com

Charleston, SC: From Vacation Destination to Home Base

Historic Charleston, SC is not only the second largest and the oldest of cities in South Carolina, but according to World Population Review, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the United States as well. The reason, aside from the preservation of the historic charm of Charleston, the revitalization of downtown is not only drawing people in but making them want to stay forever. However, it wasn’t always been like that.

A symbol of hospitality, the Pineapple Fountain in Charleston’s Waterfront Park

Joseph P Riley, the longest standing mayor of 40 years in Charleston, was at the helm of revitalizing Charleston. It was taken from a city in despair with a high crime rate, to one that continuously makes the list of top vacation destinations. According to Travel and Leisure, Charleston SC has been ranked their “Top city in the United States” every year since 2013. The revitalization brought new places to eat, new things to do, and most importantly 6 million people each year who come to visit. The growth and expansion also brought additional jobs and according to USA Today, Charleston, SC was ranked #5 in 2018 for rising median income.

The Charleston Harbor and the famed Ravenel Bridge as seen from Pitt Street Bridge

The appeal of a beautiful city, amazing weather, tons of activities, and financial prosperity quickly turned Charleston, SC from vacation destination to a place to call home. As a result, the housing market shows no signs of slowing down compared to other cities across the nation. Due to the demand for housing, there is an increase in home values. With more people wanting to move to Charleston and the surrounding area, the real estate supply is having a hard time keeping up with the demand. My family and I have witnessed this first hand, in the past 6 years since we have lived in the Charleston area, a steady increase in our own home value. The increase in property values, in turn, makes buying a home in Charleston a very smart financial investment. To sweeten the deal, if this is your primary residence, you may qualify for a break in your property taxes. An even greater appeal to families are the amazing schools that rank at the top of the state.

Balcony view of King Street from Belmond Charleston Place Hotel

Not only has Charleston, SC attracted retirees and families over the years, but the appeal to the younger generations has been on the rise as well. With a college campus nestled into the heart of downtown Charleston, many graduates are sticking around after graduation and others are coming from other cities. According to World Population Review, the median age is 34 thanks to the booming social scene, increase in jobs, and overall appeal of Charleston, SC. The year-round ideal temperatures keep this city very active. Within the last couple of years, downtown Charleston has seen an added a bike rental company, for those who want to get around and see the city or another means of transportation. It has also seen an increase in the fitness industry and the array of studios that are popping up. All of which are an appeal to the younger generations.

Joseph P Riley Park, home of the Charleston Riverdogs and named after the mayor who changed the scope of Charleston

While Charleston, SC has been the perfect spot for a family vacation, destination wedding, or even a romantic getaway, it has won the hearts of many. You can’t help but fall in love with the charm, the deep history, and the overall beauty of this city. Couple that with a booming economy and it’s easy to understand why so many people call Charleston, SC home.


Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.

Source: homes.com

Best Cities to Buy a Vacation Home for Post-pandemic Retreats

The coronavirus pandemic has made it tough to buy a home, including vacation homes. Homebuyer sentiment is at a ten-year low, and millions of families are struggling with unemployment or small businesses that are in trouble. They are forgoing their traditional week or two at the beach or mountains this year and staying home. Short term rentals built a whole new economy in popular vacation spots and many vacation homeowners count on revenues from short-term rentals to pay their mortgages.

Perhaps the only good thing about these hard times for vacation owners are the bargains that are opening up in vacation destinations nationwide. Home sellers have been in control for years, especially in the hottest short-term rental markets. If you are fortunate enough to be immune from the economic crisis that is sweeping the nation, now is the time to buy that vacation home you’ve been considering.

beach town vacation home post-pandemic buyingbeach town vacation home post-pandemic buying

Here are five of the nation’s most popular summer vacation destinations where bargains can be found.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida

Sales are 20% lower than last spring, and new listings are growing at a rate of 24 listings per 1000 households in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers market. Plenty of good deals are attracting a wave of buyers from Northern states despite the pandemic.

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers real estate market is rapidly growing, yet it still retains its small-town charm. Its quality of life, miles of Gulf Coast beaches, islands, and the economy continues to attract people. Homes.com lists more than 80,000 homes for sale in the Cape Coral area and about 9,000 in and around Fort Myers.

Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida

Through April, sales were down 20% from April 2019, creating buyers’ market conditions in Lakeland-Winter Haven offer a dense suburban feel, and most residents own their homes. Located 25 miles inland from the Tampa Bay area. November, April, and March are the most pleasant months in the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area. Click here to see available listings in Lakeland and in Winter Haven.

Santa Barbara, California

The California coast forms a crescent north of Los Angeles that connects breathtaking beaches, mountains, and vineyards. The Channel Islands National Park offers scuba diving, hiking, and whale watching. Santa Barbara’s downtown offers world-class shopping and dining.

Its real estate offerings feature a sizeable luxury home market and affordable houses as well. The pandemic is taking its toll. According to the local MLS, closings have declined from 142 closings between March 15, 2019, and April 15, 2019, but only 95 closings during the period this year. The drop in sales gives buyers an advantage in a market that features “Access Hollywood” quality listings. To see for yourself, check out Santa Barbara’s available local listings on Homes.com.

Saugatuck, Michigan

Not all excellent beach resorts are on an ocean. If you live in the Midwest, there’s a great one on the east coast of Lake Michigan. With sun, sand, and freshwater to offer, try Saugatuck. Saugatuck is a 150-old former logging town that became a local resort a century ago. Now Southwest Michigan ranks as one of Conde Nast’s 25 best places to go in 2020. Oval Beach on Lake Michigan, sand dune rides, a beach that is litter-less, a chain ferry across the Kalamazoo River, and hammocks on every porch make Saugatuck a great place for families to relax. Homes.com lists some beachfront properties that are more affordable than either coast. Best of all, it is an easy drive from Chicago and Detroit.

Ocean City, Maryland

This Mid-Atlantic shore town is straight from the 1980s with boardwalk, putt-putt golf, beach parties, and famous french fries. In fact, it’s one of the best boardwalk beaches in the US, according to National Geographic’s Traveler. Its real estate market is also more proletarian, featuring high rise condos and bungalows. The pandemic drove away sellers this year, and new listings fell 27% in April, a multi-year low, leaving fewer than 800 listings as the summer season opens. The pandemic also drove down asking prices, and the median new listing price is only $290,000, far below the median for the year, $352,000. Looking to buy? Browse available listings in Ocean City on Homes.com.

America is starting to open up just as the summer begins. As restrictions relax and more beaches open, 2020 might become a great year to get a deal on a beach property.


Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

Source: homes.com

Our Moving Expenses And Moving Checklist – Colorado Move Update

Moving To Colorado On A Budget & A Moving Checklist

Moving To Colorado On A Budget & A Moving ChecklistToday, I’m going to talk about our move to Colorado. It kind of popped up out of nowhere but now we are right in the middle of it all. I can’t believe how quickly everything is moving along and I am extremely excited.

Out of all of the moves we’ve done, this one is definitely the largest. We’ve moved a few times now, but they have all been fairly cheap and short distance moves.

However, after collecting, hoarding, and buying things over the last 5 years, we have many more items to move this time around. Even if we were just moving across town it would be difficult with all of our stuff.

Moving to Colorado will be our longest move as well as our most expensive. I’ve heard of people spending over $10,000 moving, and that is something we didn’t want to come anywhere close to.

Below are some updates for our move to Colorado, including our moving expenses and what’s left on our moving checklist.

Related:

Moving supply costs.

Moving supplies weren’t as expensive as I thought they would be. I highly recommend you shop around, as I found widely varying prices for moving supplies.

For instance, many moving companies charge around $5 per box, whereas places like Home Depot and Lowes charge between $1 to $1.50 per box. There are also moving box sets that usually end up being a better deal, such as with this one.

We also bought bubble wrap and lots and lots of tape. Our total cost for moving supplies was around $100.

We could have completely skipped any costs for moving supplies if we would have looked around though. You can often find free moving supplies on Craigslist, at stores, and so on. We would have gone this route but I will be honest and say I was a little lazy since the move sprung on us very quickly.

Moving To ColoradoThe cost of moving to Colorado.

Up until last week, we were set on renting a moving truck and trying to figure out a way for everything to work out. However, things just weren’t going to happen that way.

Our main problem is that we have two cars and a moving truck to bring to the new house, yet there are only two of us. And this is why we didn’t think a company such as UHaul or Budget would work for this specific trip.

Yes, we could tow one of the cars behind a moving truck, but we need a fairly large moving truck for all of our things. Towing a car behind it on such a long move (over 1,000 miles) and through steep mountains just seems like too much for us.

Then, Wes’s dad the other day said the company he works for uses UPack to move their employees, so I decided to look them up.

After debating for some time, we made the decision to use UPack for our moving to Colorado needs.

UPack was the easiest and cheapest option for us. UPack is a company that moves your stuff for you. They drop off a moving trailer at your home, you load it up, they pick it up a few days later, then they drop it off at the location you are moving to. They handle all of the actual moving, which is exactly why we chose them. We can make the whole 15 hour trip with only stopping one night, but I know if we drove a moving truck ourselves then it would require much more planning, more stops, and possibly even paying for car shipping because we would have to find a way to bring our second car to the new house.

Going the UPack route is pretty similar in pricing to renting a moving truck as well, and much cheaper than hiring a full-service moving company. I priced out several rental moving truck companies and once I priced everything out, it was very comparable to the pricing that UPack gave me. This is because once you factor in the extra lodging, the higher gas costs because we would have to drive a moving truck, insurance costs, and more, renting a moving truck quickly added up.

A UHaul moving truck rental would have been around $2,500 including the rental truck, insurance, gas, etc. Then, we would have had to still pay for extra lodging and somehow still transporting our second car to Fruita as well. I’m assuming that would have made our moving cost somewhere between $3,000 to $3,500 for the extras. The UPack expense from St. Louis to Fruita is $3,000, so it was an easy choice for us since it meant much less work on our end and a much safer way to move.

My Moving Checklist.

Moving to Colorado hasn’t been as stressful as I originally thought. While there are many things we have already completed on our moving checklist, everything seems to be going smoothly even with all of the tasks that are left. If you need a thorough moving checklist, UPack has one that I found very helpful.

What’s left on our moving checklist:

  • Arrange for the drop off of the moving trailer at the new house (and pickup a few days after). This is one of the more important things on our moving checklist because I need my stuff, of course!
  • Turn the internet off at our Missouri house. We’ve already cut cable.
  • Confirm with moving truck unloaders about what time they should be at the new house. Since it’s only me and Wes (and I am extremely weak), we need someone to help us bring all of our heavy furniture into the house.
  • Wait for Charter internet at the new house. Yes, this is getting installed within the first hour of moving into our new house. After spending all of that time actually moving to Colorado, I will need internet quickly set up so that I can continue working. I just can’t go without it!
  • Notify companies of our move. There are still a few more places we need to inform, such as our car insurance company, our bank, and more.
  • Run through the house one last time. Before we move, we need to run through the house and make sure nothing is left behind and we also need to make sure it’s perfectly clean too for the home sale.
  • New driver’s license. We also need to license our cars.
  • New health insurance. This is the last task on our moving checklist but also very important. Our current health insurance is only good at certain Missouri healthcare providers, so we definitely need this.

How much did your last move cost you? How did you try to save money? Are we crazy for moving to Colorado at the last moment? Is there anything I am missing from my moving checklist?

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Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Underrated Reasons Why You Need a Best Western Rewards Premium Mastercard

If you’re a traveler looking for inexpensive but quality hotels, you’re probably familiar with Best Western. This hotel group spans 18 brands in about 100 countries.

Even if you stay only a few times per year, you should consider the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard®. Not only will the card generate Best Western Rewards points toward future stays, but it also comes with a number of valuable, underrated perks.

But first: The well-known reasons

  • Welcome bonus: Get 80,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 billing cycles after the account is opened, plus 40,000 points when you spend $5,000 every 12 billing cycles.

  • Automatic platinum status: Cardholders are upgraded to Best Western Platinum elite status, which gets you a 15% bonus on all points earned on eligible stays.

  • Earnings bonus: Cardholders get 20 points per dollar spent at Best Western hotels, as well as 2 points per dollar spent elsewhere.

Underrated reasons

Potential for an additional 40K bonus points every year

If you spend $5,000 in your first 12 months as a cardholder, the company will reward you with an additional 40,000 points.

Even better: This offer is good every year.

Your 12-month qualifying period begins the month after you enroll your credit card, and starts again on your card anniversary. With rewards nights ranging from 8,000 to 36,000 points, your complimentary stays could add up quickly.

Helps you keep an eye on your credit score

The Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® gives you access to your FICO Bankcard Score 9, which is the version of the credit score that the company uses to manage your account.

The card is light on fees

Credit cards sometimes offer lots of “free” perks, but then charge huge fees. This card is a little easier on the wallet. The annual fee is a relatively modest $89. Plus, it doesn’t impose a 1% to 3% surcharge on purchases made abroad or in a foreign currency. Since the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, it’s a good card to use when traveling abroad.

10% discount on every stay for rewards members

Sign up for Best Western Rewards in conjunction with your new credit card and you’ll receive a minimum 10% discount on the hotel’s flexible rate. This member-only discounted rate is available when booking online at bestwestern.com.

Points don’t expire

It can be frustrating to manage rewards points that have deadlines. Thankfully, the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® makes it easy: The points you earn won’t expire as long as you use your card.

What’s more, there are no blackout dates for reservations, taking some stress out of the equation for cardholders.

Flexible arrival and departure times

If you love to drop off your bags at the hotel before a day of exploring or prefer to take your mornings slow, this underrated perk of the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® will put a pep in your step: Cardholders enjoy early check-in and late checkout for every stay.

The bottom line

Adding the Best Western Rewards® Premium Mastercard® to your wallet is worth considering for travelers who stay at Best Western properties at least a few times a year. Not only does it give you automatic elite status and a strong sign-up bonus, but it also offers an opportunity to earn additional rewards points every 12 months. The card gives you these benefits with only an $89 annual fee and zero foreign transaction fees.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Track Your Spending on the Chase Freedom Flex 5% Cap

One of the key benefits of the Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card is a rotating 5% earning category. Every quarter, cardholders will earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in select categories. That’s up to $300 cash back each year.

The catch? Once you pass the $1,500 spending threshold, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on further purchases in these categories. So, it’s important to know how much you’ve spent toward the limit. That way you can switch to using a credit card that provides a higher return on spending once you hit the cap.

Here’s how to track your spending on the Chase Freedom Flex℠.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ 5% earning categories

Between January and March 2021, Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders earn 5% on:

  • Wholesale club purchases.

  • Internet, cable and phone services.

  • Select streaming services.

However, the rest of the 2021 bonus categories won’t be announced until less than three weeks before the start of the quarter.

This makes it hard to plan your credit card strategy for the year. However, it allows Chase to remain flexible and offer categories that are especially relevant for the time — from department stores around the holidays to select streaming services during the pandemic.

For reference, recent bonus categories have included:

  • Q4 2020: Walmart and purchases through PayPal.

  • Q3 2020: Amazon and Whole Foods.

  • Q2 2020: Grocery stores, fitness club and gym memberships, and select streaming services.

  • Q1 2020: Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; and select streaming services.

3 steps to monitoring your category spending

1. First, check if you’ve activated cash-back earnings for the quarter

LOG IN AND HEAD TO CHASE ULTIMATE REWARDS®

First, log in to your Chase account and navigate to the Chase Ultimate Rewards® landing page. If you have multiple Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning Chase cards, you’ll need to select your Chase Freedom Flex℠ from the list.

NAVIGATE TO THE 5% CATEGORIES SECTION

Once logged in, click the menu button (represented by three lines) at the top left corner of the page. Then select “5% Categories” from the menu list.

CONFIRM ACTIVATION

On this page, Chase shows whether or not you’ve activated your 5% cash back for the quarter and the following quarter if registration is open. Do so if you haven’t already. Right below the activation button for the current quarter, you’ll find that quarter’s spending tracker.

This bar will give you a visual approximation of how close you are to the spending cap for the quarter. However, it doesn’t give details on your exact progress. Instead, you’ll need to check another page.

There’s only one place we’ve found that Chase provides an exact figure of how much you’ve spent toward the quarterly $1,500 spending cap.

2. Find the Rewards Activity page

Navigate to the Rewards Activity page. Then, click the “5% cash back” tab on the top menu to scroll down to the tracker.

Here, you’ll find details on how much cash back you’ve earned toward the $75 cap. However, the figures can be a bit confusing. The values listed for each merchant represent the 4% cash-back bonus for the quarter, and the 1% base earning is listed separately.

You don’t have to add up these values to see your bonus category cash-back earnings, though. In the example above, the cardholder has earned $58.48 of their $75 maximum cash back for the quarter.

3. Figure out how much you can still spend toward the cap

It takes a few calculations to determine how much you can still spend before hitting the spending cap.

Nerd tip: Subtract the amount of cash-back earnings so far from $75; you’ll need to divide this amount by 5% (0.05) to find out how much more you can spend before hitting the cap.

In the example above, we need to subtract $58.48 from $75. Then, we divide the $16.52 result by 5%, which gets us $330.40. This is the amount the cardholder can spend in bonus categories this quarter to maximize their cash-back return.

Other bonus categories of the Chase Freedom Flex℠

While the two cards share similar names, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a substantial improvement over the Chase Freedom®.

The Chase Freedom® also earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter in select categories, but only 1% cash back on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom Flex℠, however, improves on this by offering the following earning categories:

  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • 3% on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.

  • 3% on drugstore purchases.

Even if you opt to swap this card for one with a higher return after you reach the $1,500 spending cap in a quarter, it is wise to keep it handy for any of the above purchases.

The bottom line

To get the most out of your Chase Freedom Flex℠, you’ll want to max out your 5% cash-back earnings each quarter. But, there are plenty of cards that earn better than 1% cash back on spending. So, you’ll want to switch to using another card once you hit the $1,500 limit.

To improve your chances of maximizing your cash-back earnings, continually monitor your progress toward hitting the spending cap each quarter from your Chase account.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is the Amex EveryDay Credit Card Worth It?

The $0-annual-fee Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers some solid value. Terms apply. But should you sign up? Here are some things to consider when deciding whether this card is worth getting.

Valuable perks of the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Rewarding welcome offer

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers a welcome bonus: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.

NerdWallet values Membership Rewards® Points at around 1 cent each, depending on how you use them, so this bonus is worth about $100.

Swipe more for greater rewards

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card earns 2x points at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year, then 1 point per dollar after that. You’ll also earn double points on eligible travel purchases made through American Express Travel. Terms apply.

Those points payouts are pretty standard for a travel rewards credit card in this price range. What sets this card apart is that you can earn even more rewards by using it a lot.

Make 20 or more charges to the card during your billing cycle and you will earn 20% more points for those purchases. That makes the U.S. supermarket purchase 2.4 points per dollar and all other purchases 1.2 points per dollar. Terms apply.

Points transfer to airline and hotel programs

It is rare for a $0-annual-fee credit card to have full access to valuable airline and hotel partners. For example, Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardmembers can’t transfer their points to Chase’s airline and hotel partners the way the holders of more expensive Chase cards can.

But in the case of this credit card, you have ample transfer opportunities. The points you earn with the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card — American Express Membership Rewards® points — can be transferred to 18 different airline partners and three hotel partners. Sometimes, booking award travel directly through the airline or hotel can cost fewer points than if you redeemed the points directly through American Express Membership Rewards. This ability to transfer points means you can choose from two prices when booking award travel, which can sometimes mean significant savings. Terms apply.

Further, American Express lets you pool points from other Membership Rewards-earning credit cards into one account. So if you want to cancel a pricier AmEx card, the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is an opportunity to save your hard-earned points while shedding the other card’s high annual fee.

Money-saving offers

AmEx Offers are a great way to save money or earn more points at many different merchants. When logged into your American Express card account, you can browse dozens of merchant-specific offers for travel, dining, grocery, gas, merchandise and more. Simply click to add available offers to your card and you’ll get discounts or bonus points when you spend at those merchants. New deals are added regularly. Eligibility for these offers is limited. Enrollment is required in the AmEx Offers section of your account before redeeming.

The ability to earn more rewards (or save money on items you were purchasing anyway), in addition to the credit card rewards you already were earning, is a great benefit for a $0 annual fee credit card.

American Express Plan It payment option

While not a benefit that should be used frequently, the Plan It option that comes with the card gives you flexibility for paying for larger purchases. When you spend $100 or more on a purchase, this benefit allows cardmembers to split the charge into monthly payments over a fixed period of time. Instead of paying interest, you pay a fixed monthly fee. There may be up to three duration options. Terms apply.

The bottom line

While the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers good value, there could be more rewarding American Express cards for your lifestyle.

If you spend a lot of money at U.S. supermarkets, consider The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, which offers higher rewards for spending at U.S. supermarkets while charging a $95 annual fee. But if you don’t spend a lot of money each month on credit cards, or if you often make 20 or more small charges in a month, the $0 annual fee on this credit card could offer the right balance of rewards and affordability. Terms apply.

All information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

All information about The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express is no longer available through NerdWallet.

To view rates and fees of The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, please visit this page.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

A Guide to Southwest Flights to Mexico

Southwest Airlines serves over 100 destinations, most of which are within the United States. But, it also operates flights outside of the country, including flights to and from four airports in Mexico. If you’re planning a trip south of the border, you might consider booking with Southwest.

Here’s what you can expect when booking Southwest flights to Mexico.

Where in Mexico can I visit with Southwest?

Southwest has a few destination options within Mexico. Travelers can fly to Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. These locations are geographically separated with two on the west coast and two on the east coast, giving travelers several options to see different parts of the country.

What about Southwest flights to Mexico City? Southwest used to fly to Mexico City but stopped flying there on March 30, 2019.

Does Southwest offer nonstop flights to Mexico?

Yes. Southwest has direct flight options to each of its four Mexico destinations. Some locations have more offerings than others. If there aren’t nonstop flights from your home airport, you’ll need to book a connecting flight.

West Coast travelers will generally have an easier time getting to Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta. Those in the middle or eastern parts of the U.S. will find Cancun the most convenient. It might also be easier to fly to one destination over another, depending on your departure area.

What’s the best city in Mexico to visit?

The trip experience you want to have can help you decide which destination to visit. Here’s some information about each destination to help you pick a spot.

Cancun

In addition to the beaches, Cancun is known for its shopping, nightlife and dining. Whether you want to sit back and relax or spend your vacation partying, there’s always something to do. Plus, you’ll get the sandy beaches and Caribbean Sea weather. Be aware of hurricane season as well (typically June-November).

Cozumel

Also on the Caribbean coast, Cozumel is the largest inhabited island in Mexico. This is the place to go diving and check out the impressive coral reefs and marine life. Cozumel also has plenty of Mayan ruins to explore and Playa del Carmen is just a short ferry ride away.

Los Cabos

San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas are two cities that make up the Los Cabos area. Sunset sailing, whale watching cruises and afternoon beach days are a must. If you’re looking for nonwater adventures, a visit to the historic San José del Cabo Arts District is recommended along with the plentiful nightlife in the city.

Puerto Vallarta

This destination also offers a lot to see and do. Stroll down the streets of Old Town, check out the incredible views of Banderas Bay, explore the Malecon boardwalk or check out the food scene. Puerto Vallarta is also home to beautiful beaches up and down its coastline.

Nerd tip: Consider the airport location at your destination of choice when booking Southwest flights to Mexico. For example, Los Cabos International Airport, which serves the Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo areas, is a significant distance from Cabos San Lucas. The airports for Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are much closer to their city centers. Cozumel’s airport is nearest to the city, which can be a great option for added convenience.

The bottom line

No matter where you decide to visit, all of these destinations are worth visiting and have a lot to offer. If you’re planning a trip, booking Southwest flights to Mexico is a great option. The airline offers flights to several cities and does have quite a few direct flight options. Southwest also provides useful perks like allowing two free checked bags no change fees.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com