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Why do you use a credit card?

Note: this post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.

Over the course of my twenties, I used different credit cards for different periods in my life. When I was in debt, I wanted a card with the lowest interest rate so that I could get myself out of debt as soon as possible. And after I got myself out of debt, I focused on finding the best credit card for my spending habits; one that would give me the ability to get rewarded for responsible spending.

I did a lot of research into different types of cards, and realized that there were essentially two different kinds of credit card users – the first category of users just wanted a credit card to make purchases they aren’t able to make in cash, and the other category of users wanted to be rewarded for spending. I definitely fell into the second category.

I knew I was mainly going to use my credit card for essentials – like gas and groceries and this kind of spending pattern is perfect for a cash back card. As you know, travel is my passion, so travel rewards credit cards are also a good option (and certainly one that I’ve explored over the years), but I knew it wasn’t my only option. Many travel rewards cards came with restrictions when it came to redeeming points and I wanted to really feel the benefits and rewards in my hand from using my credit card, something a cash back card can do for you annually.

For example, these days I typically charge between $750 and $1,200 on my credit card each month. With that kind of spending on a cash back card that offers 1.25% on purchases, your annual rewards can add up pretty fast. Take a look at these examples:

Monthly Spending Cashback
$750 $112.50
$1,000 $150
$1,250 $187.50

The new Amex SimplyCash card offers 5% cash back on all eligible purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants in the first six months (up to $250) and 1.25% after, so if half my spending went to those kinds of purchases, my first year using the card would earn me a lot more cash back. Also, most cash back cards offer perks for travelers too – such as travel assistance, car rental and theft damage insurance, among other benefits.

I remember whenever I used to receive cash back from my credit card, I’d save half of it, and put the other half towards something fun – maybe dinner out with friends in the city or even Paris? I think it’s this type of flexible earning that has helped me become successful in managing my money now, 8 years after getting my first cash back card.

How did you determine what kind of credit card you’ll use?

What if you don’t file your taxes on time?

Note: this post is sponsored by TurboTax Canada, but was written and edited by me.

Most of us have already filed our taxes. I haven’t yet, but have all my paperwork ready for this weekend. :) However, there are thousands of Canadians that will end up filing late, or not filing at all. And that’s even after the CRA extended this year’s tax deadline to May 5th!

If you don’t owe money, there won’t be a late filing penalty; you can still file later and still receive your tax refund. Not a big deal.

BUT if you owe money and file late for whatever reason, you will end up triggering penalty fees, interest payments, and you could become ineligible for certain government benefits.

Here are a few things to know if you file your taxes after the April 30th May 5th deadline:

Interest and penalties
If you owe money on your 2014 taxes, compound daily interest is charged starting the next day after the filing deadline. Not only that, but you’ll also have to deal with a late-filing penalty of 5% of your 2014 balance owing, plus an additional 1% of your balance owing for each full month your return is late (to a maximum of 12 months).

If you happened to have been charged a late-filing penalty in one of the previous three years, your penalties may double to 10% of your 2014 balance owing, plus 2% of your 2014 balance owing for each full month your return is late, to a maximum of 20 months. Yikes!

Extraordinary circumstances
If you owe the CRA money and something has prevented you from filing on time, or making a payment when it became due, there is a chance  the penalties and interest will be waived by submitting a request. Some examples of extraordinary circumstances include:

• Natural or human-made disasters, such as a flood or fire;
• Civil disturbances or disruptions in services, such as a postal strike;
• Serious illness or accident; and
• Serious emotional or mental distress, such as death in the immediate family.

Loss of benefits
The government calculates certain benefits based on your most recent tax return filed. This means that if you haven’t filed your taxes, you will not trigger benefits you might be entitled to – such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit, Universal Child Care Benefit, Children’s Fitness Tax Credit, and the GST/HST benefit.

Don’t forget that if you are applying for a mortgage, lenders will require your most recent Notice of Assessment. If you haven’t filed your taxes, there will be no paperwork to validate your income.

So if you haven’t gotten your paperwork ready to file before the April 30th deadline, it’s in your best interest to spend some time this weekend to sort out your information. Using online tax software like TurboTax will help you figure out exactly what you owe in easy to follow steps. Remember that filing before the deadline might mean you still get charged interest on the amount owed, but at least you’ll be able to stop the late filing penalty from increasing.

Have you ever missed the tax filing deadline?

It’s the little things in life

IMG_7082A few weekends ago, my BF and I drove down to the Skagit Valley to visit an old family friend of his, and to see the beautiful La Conner tulip fields. His friend is in his 80’s, yet he still chops wood, shovels snow, tends to a garden, and goes on road trips to visit his family. But none of that seems remarkable to him (even though I’m constantly surprised at how active he is). And every time I see him, whether he’s working on a puzzle in his sun room, or feeding the neighbourhood cat, I can tell it’s the little things in life that make him happy.

That day with him got me thinking about the little things in my life that make me happy. Just off the top of my head, I love seeing my BF laugh so hard that he doesn’t even make a sound. I love that exhausted feeling in my legs after a long run. I love when the barista at Starbucks spells my name right, or when something is on sale that I’ve been wanting to buy for a long time, or when I get rewarded for responsible spending with a credit card. :)

And to be honest, the rewards I get from my credit cards always go to something fun – whether it’s a flight somewhere, a nice meal out, or a wine tour. I think of it as my reward for smart spending and keeping out of credit card debt. :) And on that note, the new SimplyCash Card from American Express focuses on earning cash back for every day purchases, a great reward for doing something you’re already doing. You can earn 5% cash back on all eligible purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants (up to $250 cash back) for the first 6 months), and 1.25% on all other purchases, and when your Welcome Rate ends. That can definitely add up fast, especially since there isn’t a limit to how much you can earn.

A helpful tip I can share (although I’m sure most of you already know) is to use rebate sites like Ebates or Great Canadian Rebates to gain additional money off your purchases online, as well as earning cash back rewards from your SimplyCash Card from American Express. :)

What are some of the little things in your life that make you happy?

Note: this post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.

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