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The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN – Review

By Christina Majaski

american express business gold rewardsPlenty of credit cards and charge cards are designed to help small business owners earn rewards for their purchases. However, the value of the card you choose depends on the specific needs of your operation.

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN rewards both travel and business-related purchases. And, because it’s a charge card, no preset spending limits or interest charges are imposed as long as you pay your balance in full each month.

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Key Features

  • Sign-up Bonus. If you spend $5,000 within your first three months, you are awarded a bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points – redeemable for $250 in gift cards.

Prosper Review – Online Loan Marketplace for Peer-to-Peer Lending

By Brian Martucci

prosper logoProsper, a popular peer-to-peer (P2P) lending network that offers unsecured personal loans with terms of 36 or 60 months, has embraced the sharing economy with gusto. By matching individual borrowers with individual or institutional investors willing to lend funds at competitive interest rates, Prosper cuts out the middle man (traditional banks or credit unions). Relative to those institutions, Prosper has more relaxed approval standards and faster funding times for borrowers.

The platform earns money through origination and servicing fees. Its top competitors include other P2P lenders, such as Lending Club and Peerform, and low-cost personal credit providers such as Avant, which doesn’t use the P2P model and thus isn’t available to prospective lenders.

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Lending Club Review – Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Financial Lending

By Brian Martucci

lending club logoLending Club bills itself as the world’s most popular peer-to-peer (P2P) lending network. As a classic example of the emerging sharing economy, the platform connects thousands of individual and business borrowers with regular people willing to fund their loans. In doing so, it eliminates the need for borrowers to approach traditional banks and credit unions – whose lending standards may be much more stringent than Lending Club’s – to obtain financing.

For investors, Lending Club offers the opportunity to create diversified portfolios that aren’t directly tied to bond markets. Its investments offer better yields than CDs, money market accounts, and savings accounts, though it’s critical to note that the investments are not FDIC-insured.

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What’s the Best Online Tax Preparation Software? TaxACT vs TurboTax vs H&R Block

By Brian Martucci

filing taxes onlineEven if you’re expecting a sizable refund or have a simple tax situation that doesn’t require you to fill out a ton of forms, you probably don’t love filling out your taxes. There are plenty of more enjoyable ways to spend your time: playing with your kids, going on a hike, even shopping online in anticipation of your tax refund.

This year, it took me a lot longer than I would have liked to complete my tax return. But, to be fair, that’s because I sampled several different online tax preparation options and evaluated each on its merits. My tax prep marathon covered three of the most popular programs: TurboTax, TaxACT, and H&R Block. Here’s how my experience went with each.

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FreeTaxUSA Review – Free Tax Filing & Online Return Preparation

By Brian Martucci

freetaxusa logoNearly every online tax preparation software program advertises a free federal plan that allows users to prepare their federal tax return at no cost. But as legions of frustrated filers can attest, some programs’ supposedly free plans come with severe limitations (such as unsupported forms and schedules) that force users with more complex tax situations to upgrade to a paid plan.

FreeTaxUSA is not one of those programs. Its Free Edition supports the vast majority of IRS forms and schedules, making it usable for filers with tax situations of any complexity. That includes the self-employed, small business owners, landlords, and investors who must report capital gains or losses. There’s no cost to prepare your federal return with the Free Edition, and each state return costs just $12.95.

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H&R Block Review – Online Tax Filing & Preparation

By Brian Martucci

h&r block logoH&R Block has one of the most recognizable brands of any American business. Its distinctive green square beckons from TV screens, strip malls, and corner storefronts. Even many small towns have a standalone H&R Block office, and you certainly don’t have to go far to find one in a bigger city. For many Americans, H&R Block is synonymous with in-person tax preparation.

But H&R Block also makes one of the most popular online tax preparation programs: H&R Block at Home, often shortened simply to “H&R Block.” It’s ideal for a wide range of tax situations, though people with very complicated taxes may feel more comfortable walking into a physical H&R Block office and shouldering the additional cost.

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TaxACT Review – Free Online Tax Software

By Brian Martucci

taxact logoAs someone who mixes and matches freelance work, contract jobs, and side income opportunities to earn a living, I have a pretty complicated tax situation. Millions of Americans are in the same boat – independent contractors, small business owners, and folks who earn passive income through investing.

While money may be no object to some, the costs of tax filing definitely matter to me and many taxpayers like me. It’s frustrating, but understandable, that business owners and independents have to pay more to file their taxes with brand-name services like TurboTax and H&R Block.

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eSmart Tax Review – Free Online Tax Filing

By Brian Martucci

esmart tax logoI’m always on the lookout for tools that can help me file my taxes quickly and accurately. One of the products I’ve used recently is eSmart Tax, an online filing service owned and supported by Liberty Tax.

eSmart Tax has a free federal filing option for anyone with a relatively simple tax situation, as well as paid plans that support progressively more complex returns. Unfortunately, there’s no way to file state taxes for free with eSmart. Also, the service’s prices have risen considerably: roughly a 25% jump for federal returns (except the free version), and even more than that for state returns, between 2013 and 2014.

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TaxSlayer.com Review – File Taxes for Free Online

By Brian Martucci

taxslayer logoAlthough TaxSlayer doesn’t blow competition like TurboTax and H&R Block at Home out of the water, it is superior in several important ways. Most notable, it’s cheaper than many better-known alternatives, and its free version is actually able to handle complex tax situations. If cost is an important consideration in your choice of an online tax prep program, that’s a huge selling point.

TaxSlayer is also quite flexible, allowing you to complete the required forms and schedules with minimal guidance – or, if you prefer, with the help of a “wizard” that emulates more hands-on programs such as H&R Block and TurboTax. If you need help with some parts of your return, but not others, you can use the wizard only for those trickier sections.

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TurboTax Review – Is It the Best Online Tax Preparation Software?

By Brian Martucci

turbotaxTurboTax is one of the most popular online tax preparation and filing software programs in the United States. I’ve personally used it to file my taxes for the past several years. Though I’ve shopped around for (and have reviewed) alternatives, I haven’t yet found a compelling reason to switch. And while I don’t personally qualify, TurboTax’s free filing package is one of the best free tax filing options around.

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10 Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards – Reviews & Comparison

By Christina Majaski

passport travel credit cardsMany of the first rewards cards were credit cards that offered “miles” for purchases, which could be saved and used for purchasing airline tickets. Nowadays, flight restrictions and requirements on travel rewards cards don’t always result in dream vacations.

As a result, many travel rewards cards now award purchases with not only miles, but opportunities for cash back. These options are especially important if you are not a frequent flyer, but still want to carry a travel rewards card. If you fit this description, here are some of the best travel rewards credit cards to meet your needs.

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4 Best Credit Cards for College Students – Reviews & Comparison

By Christina Majaski

college student credit cardWhile college students may need their own credit cards for a number of reasons, the most important reason is to establish and build a positive credit history. However, if handled improperly, credit cards can have an extremely negative impact, and can result in an overwhelming mountain of debt.

As a student, it’s important to choose a credit card that you can easily manage. Furthermore, you must restrain yourself from overspending, and always pay your balances in full and on time. The best options on the market have minimal fees, yet provide student-friendly benefits, as well as excellent opportunities to build credit.

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5 Best Secured Credit Cards to Rebuild Credit – Reviews & Comparison

By Christina Majaski

secured credit cards cashIt’s not easy to repair damaged credit after a series of missed payments or bankruptcy, but with the help of a secured credit card, it is possible. And while secured credit cards sometimes have a bad reputation for having heavy fees and high interest rates (which can exacerbate debt), the right card can help you build your credit history.

When choosing a secured credit card, it is important to pay attention to fees, and verify that your payment history will be reported to the credit bureaus. Prepaid cards function similarly to debit cards – therefore, your usage of a prepaid card is not reported to the bureaus, doing nothing to improve your credit.

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9 Best Low APR Interest Credit Cards – Reviews & Comparison

By Christina Majaski

credit cards walletIf you regularly carry credit card balances, it is important that you choose a credit card featuring a low interest rate, rather than a rewards credit card. Rewards cards generally have high APRs, and should only be used by those who can pay off the entire balance each month.

Many low interest options are simple, “plain vanilla” credit cards designed to allow you to make purchases and transfer balances without paying a significant amount of interest. However, some low interest cards buck industry trends and offer small bonuses and rewards programs. Here are a number of the best low APR cards available based both on the rates they charge and the rewards they offer.

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8 Best Cash Back Credit Cards – Reviews & Comparison

By Christina Majaski

credit card cash pocketAmong rewards credit cards, cash back cards are the most popular. Instead of offering bonuses that can only be redeemed for airline miles or hotel stays, cash back cards reward you for your purchases with actual cash that, for the most part, can be used however you like.

An important factor in determining which cards are the best cash back credit cards is how much cash is received per dollar spent, and whether it is possible to earn enough cash back to compensate for the cost of carrying the credit card. Keep in mind that in order to maximize your earning potential on any reward card, it is recommended that you pay your balance in full each month in order to avoid paying interest on purchases.

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