Personal Finance 
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How to Recover From a Lost Wallet

Costanza WalletIn this inaugural post to the Financial Contingency Plan series, I want to discuss one of the most common financial disasters – losing your wallet. Whether you carry a money clip, an actual wallet, or an entire purse, losing it is one of the most demoralizing financial events that can happen to a person. Your wallet is a compartmentalization of your financial identity and contains your driver’s license, your cash, any credit and debit cards, your photos, insurance information, and other financial tidbits.

This is what you need to do to prepare for and recover from a lost wallet.

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 Credit 
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How to Cancel a Credit Card

MasterCard Visa WalletIn the last year, literature in personal finance focused a lot on financial defense like canceling a credit card. There was a lot of talk about credit, credit reports, and your credit score because it’s one of the cornerstones of the modern financial life, whether you like it or not. During that time, many card issuers started canceling cards, reducing credit limits, and otherwise reducing their overall financial risk. Rampant foreclosures and sinking home prices, issuers were scared and started cutting people based on where they shopped!

Now that the economy has recovered, many people don’t want to be in the position they were a year ago – feeling like the card issuers held them and their credit score hostage. The easiest way to do this is to reduce how much credit you use and the quickest way to do that is to cancel credit cards.

How do you cancel a credit card without significantly hurting your credit score?

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 Credit 
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Review Purchase Categories for Credit Card Rewards

One of the reasons why we put 99.9% of our spending on credit cards are for the rewards. A few percent back in cash or reward points isn’t going to make anyone rich, but it’s a little better than getting nothing back if you are responsible. At the moment we only use two credit cards so keeping the bonus rewards categories in order is fairly simple, but there was a time when I used as many as four cards.

One important lesson I learned early on was that not all purchases are categorized as you would intuitively expect. It’s important to check your statement to find out whether it’s being coded how you expect and change which card you use accordingly. Let me explain with a few examples.
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 NEWS 
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Citi Dividend Card Implements Quarterly Bonus Rewards

Late last week, I received a mailing that explained the Citi Dividend Card would be, like a caterpiller after curling into a chrysalis, metamorphosizing into the Citi Dividend World MasterCard. On July 1st, 2010, the benefits of the card as well as the reward program, would be changing.

The big change is the introduction of quarterly bonus cashback promotions. This is an idea first popularized by Discover More with their Get More Program, now more and more reward cards are offering this. For the 3rd quarter of 2010 (July 1 – Sept 30), the bonus cashback is offered on purchases made at restaurants, car rentals, and hotels and the bonus percentage is 5%.

Here are some of the details of the reward structure:
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 Credit 
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Cashback vs. Points Reward Credit Cards

Cashback & Rewards Credit CardsWhen it comes to reward credit cards, there are two major flavors – cash back and points rewards (there’s also miles for travel cards but we put those in the points category). It can be difficult to figure out which one is better, cash back or points, and it depends a lot on your personality and the specific card.

Like everything else, there is no clear winner for everyone because each of our purchasing behavior is different. However, if you spend the time to look carefully, you can find one that works best for you.

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 Credit 
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How to Analyze Credit Cards Reward Programs

Credit card companies are always competing for “share of wallet,” that is a piece of your spending pie. They will offer new account bonuses to entice you to sign up. They will give you reward points of cashback to entice you to keep using their card. They’ll throw out low introductory interest rates to make spending your money a little easier.

As consumers, you might think it’s easy to compare offers. If someone offers you 1% and someone offers 2%, the 2% is better right? Not necessarily. In the world of reward programs there are two sides – the earning of points and the spending of points. It’s very easy to only focus on the earning of points and assume that spending it will be easy. As some travel credit card holders have quickly learned, sometimes spending it isn’t as easy as it seems.

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 Banking 
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How to Build Your Financial Foundation

New Construction FoundationPouring the foundation is the first step in building a new house. Ensuring it is level, stable, and on solid ground is more important than any subsequent step in the building process. Your finances are no different. Setting up a stable financial foundation will be paramount in ensuring your finances are in good shape.

Fortunately, the steps towards establishing a sound financial foundation are very easy. The hard part is knowing what those steps are and, unfortunately, those aren’t taught in many schools. I like to think of my financial foundation as the network of financial accounts onto which all my life’s decisions are made.

A good way to think of your financial foundation is to draw a financial network map. A financial network map is simply a picture of all of your accounts and how they are related. If you are starting from nothing (no checking account, no savings account, no credit card, etc.), your map is blank. If you have a couple accounts, draw the map and we can start from there.

Your foundation starts with three different financial accounts:
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 Credit 
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Citi Platinum Select & Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card: $30 Statement Credit

Citi Platinum Select MasterCard and Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card members.

Update: Citi will no longer be promoting the $30 Statement Credit previously offered with the Platinum Select Card.

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